Artist in Focus - Arthur Elsley


Playful and traditional, Arthur Elsley's paintings depict delightful scenes between children and their pets.  During the middle of the nineteenth century this style of genre paintings became increasingly popular and Arthur John Elsley was one of the most favoured English artists who depicted such idyllic childhood scenes.

Born on the 20th November 1860 in London, Elsley was a natural talent and at the age of 14 he gained entry to the South Kensington School of Art, later to become the Royal College of Art.  In 1876 he became a probationer at the Royal Academy Schools, where he first exhibited in 1878. He later went on to share a studio with Fred Morgan, which proved to be a successful working relationship as Morgan struggled with painting animals, an area in which Elsley excelled

He married his second cousin in November 1893 and together they had one child, Marjorie, born in 1903, and who posed for many of his subsequent paintings.

By the turn of the Century, following a falling out with Fred Morgan over an accusation that he had used one of Morgan's ideas, Elsley’s work became more adventurous and on a grander scale.  He began depicting scenes with multiple figures, all from individual sitters visiting his studio or based on earlier sketches.

During the First World War, he worked part-time at munitions.  Though ideal for his short-sightedness, it put such a strain on his eyes that he virtually produced no paintings of any substance after the First World War.

Arthur Elsley achieved great popularity during his life and he died at his home in Tunbridge Wells in 1952, aged 91.

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