Cymraeg (Welsh)

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Elsi Eldridge

c_320_320_14606046_0___images_stories_artists_3._self_portrait.jpgMildred Elsi Eldridge 1909-1991

 

Mildred Elsi Eldridge was born in Wimbledon in 1909, the daughter of a pawnbroker who later became a jeweller. She had one brother, Freddie. Early holidays were spent in Scotland but as a teenager Elsie spent considerable periods in France. Her French was fluent as befitted the daughter of Heugenot descendants.

She attended Wimbledon College of Art and the Royal College of Art and studied under William Rothenstein, Charles (Cyril) Mulroney, Eric Ravilious, Henry Tonks and Edward Bawden.

Elsi's graduation piece, 'Telling the Bees' depicted a romantic rural idyll. Other paintings would echo this theme. The early self-portrait exudes a quiet confidence and indeed Elsi was a star student. She won, much to her delight, the prestigious RCA travelling scholarship to Italy in the early 1930's which allowed her to mix in exalted artistic circles.

On returning to London Elsi quickly made an impression on the city's art scene - a press cutting from the period says: 'Miss Eldridge is the first painter at this year's Royal Academy to have sold all her paintings'. A one woman show at the fashionable Beaux Arts Gallery followed in 1937, but Elsi had already turned her back on London; her sights were now on 'good Welsh country'.

Whilst teaching art at Oswestry and Moreton Hall, Elsi lodged in a house called Bryn Coed, in Chirk. Her co - tenant there was the young curate R S Thomas. They married in 1940 and lived for a short while in Tallern Green before settling down to creative bliss in Manafon.

In 1953 Elsi was commissioned to paint a huge mural for the nurses' canteen at the Robert Jones Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic hospital at Gobowen. This great work she completed with much acclaim in 1958.

Elsi had also made a name for herself as an illustrator and writer of children's books and she also worked on illustrating the dust cover to her husband's first volume of poems, Stones of the Field, in 1947.

When RS moved to Eglwys Fach in Cardiganshire, Elsi followed reluctantly. It was here that she developed a passion for natural history illustration. She had endless drawers of animal and bird specimens, their wings and skulls minutely categorised and drawn. These designs for Medici cards were enormously popular and she rarely failed to sell a painting – 'except the good ones' - as she used to remark rather sourly. She experimented with form, moaning to her brother that nobody wanted to buy her abstract paintings.

Later on in her life after settling down on the Llŷn Peninsula at Aberdaron and Rhiw, Elsi continued to produce on average one painting every fortnight.

M E Eldridge died in 1991 and is buried in Llanfaelrhys churchyard.

 

Gwydion - 1950

Clay Sculpture 25 x 18cm

Private collection

NFS

 

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