Ken came to Cornwall in 1960, deciding that he could work as well here as in London, where he had been making his publishing career in art as a free-lance illustrator and designer of book jackets. His studies in art had been on scholarship to the Regent Street Polytechnic, after working for some years for the Great Western Railway, based at Swindon. The Borough of Swindon awarded him their first grant to attend art school after completing his apprenticeship. At the Poly he also met his wife, Jane, who in time forward became a formidable force at the Newlyn Art Gallery, working as 'lady of all arts' to the Director John Halkes and helping to organise exhibitions.
Ken studied for his teaching diploma at London University and then taught for two years in Barnet, Herts, before the couple came to Cornwall and set up their studio in St Erth, near both Penzance, and St Ives. Ken joined both the Penwith Society and the Newlyn Society of Artists, and exhibited often with both. In 1980 they moved into a large old church which they converted into a marvellous living and working space, with storage racks for paintings on the entrance floor, and living quarters above. Ken served the NSA as Chairman for the five year period when NAG was combined with the Penzance gallery, Orion, to effect a stronger financial base in a difficult period.
Aside from exhibiting widely and often, he taught classes at the Penzance School of Art, the St Ives School of Painting and took individual pupils in his own studios. In 1995 he published a portfolio of 30 watercolours 'Around the Penwith' with the St Ives Printing Company, and these were bound into a large cased volume (difficult to shelve!) which is a prized collector's item today.
At the Fourth Annual Newlyn Arts Festival, artist Angela STEAD paid tribute to Ken with her assemblage of life drawings, 'to the late and much-missed Ken Symonds'. The Open Art Exhibition held at NAG, is one in which he had shown each year in Cornwall.
Painter of landscapes, nudes, and portraits in all media, especially watercolour and pastel
works and access
Works include: West Penwith farmstead (w/c); Reclining female nude (w/c); Artists Series of 32 fellow artists (1986) (featured in colour in Hardie 1995 100 Years in Newlyn/Diary: John WELLS, Barbara TRIBE, Bryan PEARCE, Denis MITCHELL)
1987: A West Penwith painting, was presented to Prime Minister Margaret thatcher, for the No 10 Downing Street art collection, in commemoration of the gift of Cape Cornwall to the National Trust.
Access to works: The Hypatia Trust Art Collection contains two portraits of local artists, both in pastel, by Ken Symonds: Morris Sumray and Rose Phipps Hilton; St Michael's Hospital, Hayle art collection contains three paintings in oil by KS: Cliffs; Fishermen at Penberth; Penwith Landscape. The former Camborne School of Mines includes 3 portraits by Ken: Dr Peter Hackett, Principal (1970-1994); Arthur Leonard Thomas; Robert H MacWilliam
1960: Solo exhibition, NSA, and many mixed shows thereafter
1972: NAG Artists of Cornwall Exhibition, University of Birmingham (Orion Gallery Touring)
1977: Newlyn in Pont Aven exhibition (Organiser with wife Jane)
1988: Art Share Exhibition, NAG
1989: Selected for 'A Century of Art in Cornwall 1889-1989', Truro
2009: 'Painters of West Cornwall', Group Exhibition in Central London, Eleven and a Half Art Gallery
NSA (Chairman, Committee 1972-); Penwith Society of Artists; Pastel Society
Buckman (2006) Artists in Britain since 1945
Cornishman 26 Aug 2010 Obituary: 'Ken's Work was taken to No 10' (col photo illus)
Cornishman 18 Nov 2010 'Arts Festival begins with a bang' (Newlyn's 4th Annual Arts Festival)
T Cross (2002) Catching the Wave, Contemporary Art & Artists in Cornwall pp77-8 (photos & illus);
Exh Cat: 20 Years of Contemporary Art at Falmouth Art Gallery 1980-2000 p17: col pl of Saskia II
Hardie (1995) 100 Years/Diary, pp5-174 various; (photo likenesses & illus work (A Col sec), (B Col sec), 161)
McLeod, Alister J (1973) Newlyn Society of Artists 1895-1973 (NAG 12 page brochure)
Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Cornwall & Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership p66 (illus), p96
W H Lane Sales Cat (Sept 1010)