The Seven Pillars Portraits
T. E. Lawrence commissioned so many illustrations for Seven Pillars of Wisdom that he ranks as one of the major private patrons of fine art in Britain during the early post-war years. By far the most important of these Seven Pillars illustrations were the portraits of Arab and British participants in the Arab Revolt. The Arab portraits, drawn by Eric Kennington in 1921, represent a cross-section of the Arab forces, while the British portraits show not only leading figures like Allenby, McMahon, Storrs, and Wingate, but also a selection of those who were involved in liaison and support roles in Cairo and in the field.
When the Arab portraits were first exhibited in London, Lawrence wrote:
The desert is full of songs and legends of their fighting, books could be written round them by the Arabs, and personally I am very content to have had a share in causing to be made these records of their faces while the knowledge of what they did is fresh in menís minds. Whoever writes these books will have to write well if he is to do honour to his illustrations.
Until recently, this historic series of portraits had been printed in full-colour only once: Lawrence ordered just two hundred collotype sets as illustrations for his subscribers' edition of Seven Pillars, issued in 1926. They were reprinted as illustrations to our three-volume Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Complete 1922 Text, published in 1997. Unlike the make-believe of the Lawrence of Arabia film, they show people who really took part in the Arab Revolt, as seen through the eyes of accomplished contemporary artists.
Text copyright © Castle Hill Press
Portraits copyright © The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust.
Not to be copied without written permission.