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28 October 2014
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Eileen Soper picture

Brush strokes - Eileen Soper painting.

Eileen Soper

We explore the enchanting world of the Famous Five illustrator - Eileen Soper, and discover the inspiration behind her art… her magical wild garden. Plus visit the Eileen Soper online gallery.

Eileen Soper

  • Born 1905.
  • Her etchings were first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1921 - she was the youngest ever exhibitor.
  • She painted watercolours and also illustrated books.
  • Soper illustrated about 50 Enid Blyton books including the whole of The Famous Five series.
  • Died 1990.

Visit the Famous Five photo gallery - click here to see the images we all grew up with, of The Famous Five, and reminisce about the good old days.

Eileen Soper sought success at an early age, and was considered a child prodigy when she was the youngest artist ever to exhibit her work at The Royal Academy in London - at the ripe age of just 15.

She was fantastically well received.

But Eileen was not new to art at that age - she had experienced a lifetime of top tutoring from her father, George Soper, also a well-accomplished artist.

Badgers c/o Eileen Soper

Badgers by Eileen Soper.

He drew out the creative side in both his daughters.

Eva, Eileen's elder sister by less than two years, was a skilled potter, producing many designs for Royal Worcester - whilst Eileen and their father were more focused on etching and painting.

Eileen produced around 180 different etchings, two of which were bought by Queen Mary.

Her set of etchings of a specific group of children are particularly popular.

The same set of children appear numerous times, enjoying different games and activities, and all these drawings were produced during the 1920's, but they are still hugely well-liked today.

Capturing life and movement

What endears so many people to her pictures is her rare ability to put life and movement into her subjects that they practically bounce off the page.

In the inter-war period, Eileen and father spent a lot of time together, painting in oil and water-colour.

Birds

Charming bird illustration by Soper.

By then the family was living in a house in Harmer Green, Welwyn, built by George himself in 1908.

As an avid gardener, he tended to four acres of exotic plants, a passion for which was inherited by Eileen, and proved an endless inspiration for the two of them.

Her father died in 1942, but the two sisters remained in that house for many years, growing old together.

During this time Eileen developed a 20-year working relationship with Enid Blyton as the illustrator for the whole 'Famous Five' series.

Later she focused more wholly on her love for drawing all the flora and fauna that inhabited their wild garden.

Inspired by nature

Both sisters were very recluse, preferring mainly the company of each other and the local wildlife.

Eileen Soper drawing

Eileen Soper drawing.

Men, in particular, were rarely allowed into the house, whilst children were welcomed.

Eileen was very worried about letting in germs, and that's why human visitors were limited.

Ironically, however, her house commonly had wildlife running around it!

Eileen cared for Eva, who had bad arthritis, until she no longer could, and the pair went into a nursing home, where they spent their final days.

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last updated: 01/11/07

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