Kenneth Denton Shoesmith was a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and of the British Society of Poster Designers. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Paris Salon and at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in addition to one-man shows in Belfast and Liverpool. His work today is known and appreciated by only a few, yet his maritime art perfectly captures the romance and adventure of ocean liner travel in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Much of his work was for Royal Mail Lines although other shipping companies of the day employed his skills, including Canadian Pacific Railways, Blue Funnel, Union Castle and Anchor Line. The pinnacle of his career was the collection of murals for Cunard White Star‘s “Queen Mary” whose maiden voyage was in 1936. Thankfully, both the ship and the murals have survived to this day at Long Beach, California.
The young Shoesmith was drawing ships from the time he could hold a pencil and examples of his earliest works have been preserved. During his early career as a ship’s officer he continued to paint the ships on which he served as well as those he observed around him. Finding his duties as Chief Officer left him insufficient time for his passion for painting, he resigned in 1918 and took up his second career as a full-time freelance painter until his death in 1939 aged just 48. Upon the death of his widow in 1974 the entire contents of his studio were bequeathed to The Ulster Museum, Belfast where a major collection of his works is now held.