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Eileen A Soper RMS SWLA 1905-1990

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Artists Inspired by Nature - Eileen Alice Soper RMS SWLA 1905-1990

Best known as the original illustrator of Enid Blyton's books, Eileen Soper was particularly fond of depicting children and animals. She was born in Enfield, Middlesex, and then moved to Hertfordshire where her artist father, George, created a wildlife sanctuary in their garden. She sketched many of the animals living there, including deer and badgers, and made etchings and engravings from an early age. She also wrote several books for children and produced a series of natural history books.

Her charming etchings of children at play, mostly created when she was still a child herself, attracted the attention of many critics, artists and collectors on both sides of the Atlantic, even gaining the patronage of Queen Mary. In 1921, with an etching created when she was 15, Eileen became one of the youngest artists ever to exhibit at The Royal Academy.

Her understanding of children’s movement, combined with her attention to detail, brought adventure to life. Most famously seen in her illustrations for Enid Blyton’s books, including the popular Famous Five series.

Eileen was fascinated by wildlife and, in particular, by the badgers living in the nearby fields and woods. She would spend entire nights camped outside, immobile for hours, watching badger families play, hunt and bond. Slowly, she gained the trust of several badger families and, by feeding them, gained a view into their habits.

It was this study of badgers and other natural fauna that led to an explosion of illustrations, many of which she published in her own books such as Wild Encounters and When Badgers Wake.

Some of her glorious, large watercolours were subsequently shown at the exhibitions held by The Society of Wildlife Artists, of which along with Robert Gillmor, a close friend, she was a founding member - but most have never been seen publicly.

Notes

The featured image of Nuthatch has been taken from the book “Wildings - The Secret Garden of Eileen Soper” by Duff Hart-Davis published in 1991 by H. F. & G. Witherby.

Much of the biographical detail has been sourced from The Soper Collection

Eileen Alice Soper RMS SWLA 1905-1990

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Ashley
Ashley
March 7, 2021 10:55 am

Wonderful! I wish I’d kept those books from childhood but one moves away from home and, well, they’re gone! Just memories now, but what wonderful pictures she planted in my imagination. You’ve chosen a delightful painting for us to drool over.

Ashley
Ashley
Reply to  Clive Bennett
March 7, 2021 11:09 am

They are probably expensive nowadays, the books that is, even used ones!

cathytea
March 7, 2021 4:10 pm

Thanks for sharing about this amazing artist! I love those nuthatches!

Jchome
March 8, 2021 12:58 am

Another beautiful post. Thank you for reminding of the books and stories of my youth.

navasolanature
March 10, 2021 7:34 pm

How interesting, thanks Clive. I think most of my famous five books were library ones but I remember the drawings of the dog!

trackback
March 13, 2021 9:41 am

[…] I found this painting of nuthatches by Eileen A Soper on Clive Bennett’s beautiful website Art in Nature […]

Andrea Stephenson
March 21, 2021 5:04 pm

I didn’t know about Eileen Soper and yet I must have seen many of those illustrations in childhood books.

Helen White
March 25, 2021 3:05 pm

Thank you for this, I had no idea of her name but the style is the one I have fondest memories of from my Enid Blyton days as mine tended to be older editions (and I am still not so keen on the “more modern” illustrations used since the late 70s onwards…feels like we lost some of the potential magic of children’s illustrations along the way). You sent me off on an exploration of her work. Wonderfully nostalgic.

Athira
March 31, 2021 6:46 pm

Beautiful👌🏻

Athira
Reply to  Clive Bennett
March 31, 2021 7:03 pm

Most welcome🙏🏻