E. Carey Kenney, a noted Pikesville artist who headed the art department at McDonogh School for more than three decades and whose oils and watercolors were inspired by the Owings Mills campus' rolling hills and fields, died Thursday of pneumonia at Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown.
He was 98.
"Ed Kenney was a dear friend and a fabulous teacher. He was a wonderfully colorful person," said George S. Wills, a semiretired Baltimore public relations executive and painter who graduated from McDonogh in 1954.
"In fact, whenever and wherever I move that brush, thoughts often move to Ed Kenney. He was the first — at the grade-school level — and is still an enduring influence in my art and painting," said Mr. Wills.
The son of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad traveling auditor and a homemaker, Mr. Kenney was born in Pittsburgh and moved with his family in 1931 to a home on Roslyn Avenue in Northwest Baltimore.
He graduated in 1932 from Calvert Hall College High School, and four years later earned a fine-arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
"I wasn't from an artistic family. I think my dad would have liked to have been an artist," Mr. Kenney told The Baltimore Sun in a 2008 interview.
"But I decided early on I didn't like the idea of working, and he supported me in attending art school, where I had a wonderful time going to parties and chasing girls," he said.
After graduating from the Maryland Institute, he taught one semester at Calvert Hall and then became an instructor at the institute.
In the late 1930s, Mr. Kenney opened a studio on West Franklin Street, where he gave lessons to adults while working on his own art.
He was drafted into the Army in 1941, and during basic training, illustrated a book, "Khaki is More Than a Color," that brought praise from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Mr. Kenney was sent to Italy, where he fought at the historic 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino, where there were an estimated 55,000 Allied casualties with some 20,000 Germans killed or wounded.
"I was a young lieutenant when I joined the line at the Battle of Monte Cassino and spent two years in Italy in combat and didn't even get a scratch," Mr. Kenney said in the 2008 interview.
He was decorated with the Bronze Star and remained in the Army Reserve, where he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After the war, he went to Florence, Italy, to study and teach.
He returned to Baltimore and enrolled at the Maryland Institute, where he earned his teaching certificate, and met and fell in love with Joan Kroeger, an institute student whom he married in 1949.
"Joan said she saw me on a balcony and fell in love with me," said Mr. Kenney in the 2008 interview. "She gave up painting to raise our five kids and look pretty."
Mr. Kenney joined the McDonogh School faculty as an art teacher in 1947, and also was coach of the rifle team. He eventually became head of the art department.
"Coming to McDonogh School after combat while in the Army during World War II, I recall him saying that painting provided the change he needed after the war," said Mr. Wills. "He combined humor with military discipline."
Mr. Kenney was seldom seen without his sketchbook as he made his way across campus and eventually into the woods, where an abandoned barn or house, for instance, became subject matter for his artwork.
Or he could be found "by the late afternoon's light with his easel set up in a cornfield, capturing the luminous sunset on the fields before him," wrote Stiles Tuttle Colwill, a former student of Mr. Kenney's in the foreword to "E. Carey Kenney's McDonogh," a 100-page work that featured paintings and drawings associated with the school that was published in 2008 by McDonogh.
"He was in our eyes, the Andrew Wyeth of Baltimore," wrote Mr. Colwill, a Baltimore interior decorator and past board chair of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
In the book, Mr. Kenney observed that "a field overgrown with weeds, a trailside patch of wildflowers are more likely to excite me than the most cultivated garden."
"He never tired of the thrill of painting, which he described as having a vision of the world which remained tantalizingly elusive as you tried to pin it down on canvas or paper," said a daughter, Kate Kenney of Ellicott City.
Mr. Kenney's work shows the influence of Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton and Norman Rockwell.
To this, Mr. Kenney told The Baltimore Sun, "I think to some degree every artist is a plagiarist."
In addition to his pastoral scenes and murals, Mr. Kenney also painted portraits of faculty members, friends and family members, which he described in the 2008 interview as being "hard work."
Mr. Kenney was still painting into his 90s, until his vision dimmed because of macular degeneration and a tremor interfered with his ability to paint, family members said.
Plans for a memorial service to be held in the fall at McDonogh are incomplete.
In addition to his wife of 63 years and his daughter, Mr. Kenney is survived by three sons, Edward C. Kenney Jr. of Hampstead, Robert M. Kenney of Reisterstown and Patrick J.D. Kenney of Pikesville; another daughter, Mary Anne Kenney of Catonsville; and five grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun