Alice Denny Biography
Alice Denny was a splendid down-to-earth figure from the North of England. We sadly have no details of Alice’s background or childhood. She married a blonde, raw-boned man known as Court Denny. In fact Court was an East Prussian called Kurt Akenhausen. Kurt had wisely adopted his wife’s English surname and changed ‘Kurt’ to ‘Court’ because he served in the English trenches as a stretcher bearer during the WW1, albeit on the side of the British. Court and Alice lived for many years and raised their family in London at 30, Addison Road W14. Sadly this house has been demolished at some time in the years since the family left.
Alice was a children’s artist. She probably illustrated very many of the books that the older readers will remember from their childhood. During Philip’s younger years Alice sat at a large round table in a wonderful room on the first floor of No 30, Addison Road, Kensington. She was always surrounded by paints, half-finished illustrations and with the radio constantly playing probably the ‘Light Programme’ or possibly occasionally the ‘Home Service’. Here she would preside and young artists, keen to learn the trade, would sit and admire her work. Two such young artists under her tuition made the grade and developed artistic illustrative careers of their own.
[*we know one was George Lane, a very great friend of Philip’s and Donough O’Brien’, Philip’s nephew]
Alice had the same agent for 60 years, painting professionally from the age of 18 to 78. George Lane became her illustrating partner and undertook the technical and mechanical work in her illustrations such as cars and machinery, which Alice apparently found rather challenging. He was a well respected racing car artist before WW2 and examples of his work for motoring publications can be found on the internet.
Addison Road was situated about 100yds north of Kensington Gore, which developed into Kensington High Street in an easterly direction. From this majestic Victorian residence steam trains could be seen and heard racing under the road bridge travelling north to Watford or south to Clapham Junction with the massive edifice for exhibitions, ‘Olympia’ on the further side of the tracks. This was a venue for Bertram Mill’s Circus for many years in 1960s, a frequent subject for Alice’s illustrations.
In later years, after her retirement, Alice moved to the lovely little cottage in Suffolk which was the gate house to Boxted House. Her elder daughter, Natalie Bevan shared the house with her husband Bobby Bevan. Natalie and Bobby were a noteworthy couple, Natalie was a well respected artist and ceramicist and Bobby was an enthusiastic collector of contemporary art works of the period.
[some of the facts incorporated above are reproduced, with the permission of, and with thanks to, Donough O’Brien from his book, ‘Fringe Benefits’]