Elvic Steele - Festival Fires

Artist Biography


Elvic Steele was born in St Albans and studied art at Hockerill Teacher Training College in Bishop’s Stortford, subsequently teaching art in various Essex schools. Steele seems to have been one of the earliest students when Cedric Morris and Arthur Letts-Haines in 1940 set up the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Benton End near Hadleigh in Suffolk. Steele took a year off in 1946 to further her study at Benton End, attending Summer schools thereafter until 1978. She found much inspiration in the gardens there and Morris rated her work highly, whilst the sexual freedoms and fluidity might also have appealed to her.

An interest in botany and surrealism infused Steele’s art, suggesting both Morris and Lett-Haines (whose work was mainly Surrealist) were important influences. Her paintings contained vibrant colours and had a naive and fantastic feel to them, far removed from the everyday. She also took photographs of fellow artists at Benton End and a 1965 photo of Maggie Hambling in her studio, taken by Steele, is in the Tate collection.

Steele began to show her work regularly at Colchester Art Society exhibitions and subsequent solo shows included one on the Isle of Scilly in 1960 and two at the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington in the 1980s. Peter Nahum at the Piccadilly Galleries, London later promoted her work and held a solo retrospective entitled The Magic Garden in 2005.

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