Monday, January 7, 2019

Henry Keen

Henry Keen (b. St. Pancras, London, 2 August 1899; d. Walberswick, Suffolk, 26 June 1935)

Henry Weston Keen was apparently the youngest of six children of Edwin Henry Keen (1853-1936), a merchant taylor and director of a manufacturing company (according to the 1911 UK Census) and Mary Elizabeth, nee Williams (1860-1923), who were married in 1880. Little is known of his life, though he served in W.W. I and he became a printmaker and lithographer, exhibiting lithographs at the Senefelder Club in London. He is remembered primarily for the four elegant books he illustrated, all published by John Lane / The Bodley Head in London, and Dodd, Mead of New York.  The four books are:

The Twilight of the Gods and Other Tales, by Richard Garnett, with an Introduction by T.E. Lawrence. [Published November 1924 at 21s.] Twenty-eight full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, with an Introduction by Osbert Burdett. [Published October 1925 at 16s.] Twelve full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces.

Zadig and Other Romances by Voitaire. Translated by H.I. Woolf and Wilfred S. Jackson, with an Introduction and Notes by H.L. Woolf. [Published November 1926 at 16s.] Twelve full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces. [Note: the 1931 edition Privately Printed for Rarity Press has very inferior reproductions of the illustrations.]

The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil: Two Plays by John Webster. [Published October 1930 at 21s.] Twelve full-page illustrations by Henry Keen, plus various other illustrations including headpieces and tailpieces.

A selection of illustrations are reproduced below. Some resources state that Keen died in Switzerland, but his brief will, made the day before he died of consumption, was made at Walberswick in Suffolk. The will was probated one month later to one of Keen's older brothers, Arnold Grey Keen (1890-1977). The valuation was just over £200. A memorial showing of his drawings and lithographs was held in London in October 1935 (the foreword to the catalogue was written by Edward Garnett).

Mark Valentine has written on Keen at Wormwoodiana—the link is here.  


The Twilight of the Gods



The Picture of Dorian Gray




Zadig and Other Romances




The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil