A GALLERY is showcasing the works of a talented woman who lived in Chirk and Manafon – revealing a talent that went largely unrecognised.
The exhibition in Oswestry of Mildred Elsie Eldridge, wife of the poet R. S. Thomas, features her paintings and illustrations.
She married Thomas, who she met while lodging in Chirk, in 1940 and lived for a while in Tallarn Green, near Wrexham, before settling down to creative bliss in nearby Manafon.
A group from the Oswestry gallery spent months collecting the work of the artist and currently have more than 30 pieces of art on display.
Qube gallery chairman Leonard Graham said: “We discovered that work had been going on already in North Wales, so we linked up to that group to gain access to the owners of some of her work.
“We know that she produced many which she sold to fund her family budget.
“It was initially and idea as part of the centenary of the suffragettes, so we wanted to look at under-recognised artists which included Elsi Eldridge
and we wanted to bring together her work.”
Elsie Eldridge was lodging in Chirk and was a teacher at Oswestry School and Moreton Hall during the 1940s and 50s.
The paintings and drawings created by Elsie Eldridge cover a variety of themes, including nature, landscapes, flowers, butterflies, general wildlife and family portraits.
The exhibition will also feature Helen Williams-Ellis’s engaging film Who Was Mrs R. S. Thomas.
“She was an artist of a wide range of ability,” added Mr Graham. “We want people to think about the artists who have not been recognised because they are women and we want to revitalise that. It is a beautiful exhibition.
“We would like people to have a recognition that she was a major talent who wanted to work in this part of the world. It is a very great exhibition and you won’t often get very many of these in the local.”
Mildred Elsie Eldridge was born in Wimbledon in 1909, the daughter of a pawnbroker who later became a jeweller.
She attended Wimbledon College of Art and the Royal College of Art and won the prestigious RCA travelling scholarship to Italy in the early 30s which allowed her to mix in artistic circles.
On returning to London, Elsie quickly made an impression on the city’s art scene and held a one-woman show at the fashionable Beaux Arts Gallery in 1937. But she soon turned her back on London and set her sights on “good Welsh country”.
In 1953, Elsie was commissioned to paint a huge mural for the nurses’ canteen at the Robert Jones Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen. She completed “The Dance of Life” four years later.
The mural consists of six panels of differing lengths painted in oil on canvas and tells the story of civilised man’s alienation from nature, and his attempt to reclaim a lost natural wisdom.
It depicts scenes of the countryside and seashore, and contains many images of birds, animals and plants.
It was put into storage in 1999 when the canteen was turned into smaller offices.
Following a documentary on Elsie, it was loaned to Glyndwr University in Wrexham for display in its Creative Industry Building, which opened in March 2011.
Elsie was also an illustrator and writer of children’s books and also illustrated the dust cover of her husband’s first volume of poems, Stones of the Field, in 1947. The couple then moved to Eglwys Fach in Cardiganshire.
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.
After settling down on the Llyn Peninsula, Elsie continued to produce on average one painting every fortnight. She died in 1991 and is buried in Llanfaelrhys churchyard, Llyn Peninsula.
Organisers of the exhibition at The Qube also want to know where she sold her paintings in an attempt to discover more of her collection.
The exhibition is one of a selection coming to Qube that feature under-recognised artists.