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About the artist: Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

Photograph of Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale and Byam Shaw, about 1911 or 1912.
© Nancy Anderson and John Peel

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1872-1945) was one of the most popular artists of the Edwardian era. She became famous as an illustrator, painter and watercolour artist. Her work could be seen in exhibitions, magazines, books, churches, and private homes.

Much of Eleanor's work was painted in a Pre-Raphaelite style. The Pre-Raphaelite group was founded in 1848 by John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

By the time Eleanor went to art school in 1889, Pre-Raphaelite painting was led by a second generation of artists including Edward Burne-Jones. Eleanor followed in their footsteps and helped keep the style alive until the start of the twentieth century.

Eleanor was a designer as well as an artist. She produced stained-glass windows, illustrated books and small-scale sculptures as well as paintings. Her use of different media followed the Pre-Raphaelite tradition of applied art, made famous by William Morris. In all these media, she told stories, drew morals and celebrated the beauty of nature, as the original Pre-Raphaelites had in the 1850s.

By the end of the 1920s, Eleanor recognised that her favoured style had run its course, and when she died in 1945 she was identified as the last Pre-Raphaelite. This style of art still had many admirers, people who found modern art unsympathetic and missed art that was both decorative and told stories.

Now, in the 21st century, Eleanor's re-telling of the stories of English literature can be enjoyed again, as her work opens a window onto the Victorian and Edwardian worlds that continue to fascinate us.

The Pre-Raphaelites