Bringing together art works now held in both private and public collections, Wendy Loncaster and Malcolm Shields have reunited Fred Elwell’s wonderful paintings within the pages of their beautifully illustrated book. Elwell’s subjects include both portraits and landscapes, but his studies of people at work and play are particularly interesting, capturing moments in time – maids working in the kitchen of an inn, circus performers poised at the entrance of a Big Top, friends taking tea together. We are glimpsing a lost, hidden world.
The Public Catalogue Foundation is delighted to have had a small role in Wendy and Malcolm’s painstaking research, helping them to locate paintings in public collections across the UK.
Head of Research and Digitisation, Public Catalogue Foundation
Renowned Beverley-born artist, Fred Elwell, is the subject of a long-awaited new book entitled, Fred Elwell RA – A Life in Art. It is by the recognised authorities on Elwell, Wendy Loncaster and Malcolm Shields.
This stunning publication is a fully illustrated account of Fred Elwell's life and work.
It demonstrates the versatility of this artist who bloomed during his training in Antwerp and Paris, where in the heat of the French art revolution he developed in stature under the leading tutors of the day.
Their latest book was nearly five years in the making. Such a mammoth task would be off-putting for many of us, but for Wendy and Malcolm it has been a labour of love.
The result is a wonderful book that contains, as would be expected, some of Fred Elwell's most celebrated works of art, and also a compelling history and picture book of the times in which he lived, at the end of the 1880s and into the mid twentieth century. It is a really good story. Whether or not you know a great deal about art, it is worth reading.
Fred Elwell rose to the very top of his profession. He was a realist painter who painted exactly what he saw and knew he was good at it. His work was ground-breaking in that he turned art around from the gloomy representations that were fashionable at the time into something far more colourful and lively.
His was A BRUSH WITH MAGIC. He was one of the innovators who transformed art at that period.
I took my nephew into Beverley's splendidly refurbished Art Gallery. He was immediately intrigued - almost mesmerised - by Fred Elwell's self-portrait.
I am sure then that he will be pleased with his copy of a new book, Fred Elwell RA — A Life in Art, by Wendy Loncaster and Malcolm Shields, especially as the same picture is reproduced on the dust jacket of this sumptuous volume.
In 1993 Wendy completed a project she is grateful to have undertaken at that time. “Elwell”, she wrote, “preferred the brush to the pen, never writing anything until the pressure upon him was irresistible”. Then there were still many people with vivid memories of the artist. Their contributions were invaluable, captured just before it was too late.
With the help of Malcolm's persistent research, more has been added to what was previously published, all accompanied by a gallery - a galaxy - of more than 140 colour plates showing the range and quality of the work he maintained throughout a long life.
A Life in Art is highly readable, written in a fluent style that carries you along and makes you keen to know what happened next. Through the work of Wendy and Malcolm, Elwell's greatness is now increasingly recognised.
Hull Daily Mail
Congratulations. The book is magnificent. I recommend it to all those interested in the history of art in the twentieth century. Whatever changes in tastes and fashion there may be in the future, Elwell's paintings will remain as an important record.
President of The East Yorkshire Historian
We have always been aware of that indefinable quality that places Fred Elwell among the greats of English artists. This splendid book absolutely confirms our opinion.
Sutcliffe Galleries, Harrogate
Elwell's story is admirably covered in a new book by Wendy Loncaster and Malcolm Shields, Fred Elwell RA — A Life in Art. He was part of the community of artists in Lamorna, Cornwall, which included Alfred Munnings and Laura Knight. In 1938 he was elected to the Royal Academy. It is the interiors which make the most money, showing his use of the play of light coming through windows and doorways.
Antiques Trade Gazette
I am talking to Malcolm Shields and Wendy Loncaster – can you believe they spent four years of their lives writing this book on the life and times of Fred Elwell?
Has he the national recognition he should have? His pictures are awesome – your book is full of fantastic illustrations of his work. Everything about his colour, his tone, his ability to put the paint on the canvas is super – he is a master and will stand the test of time. You will love this book.
I like very much the little watercolour of his father in profile that has the air of a Whistler about it. There are so many subject-matters he would paint. The informal study, Plate 113, Tea Time, has a gorgeous Elwell sense of light, a lovely interior. I love that picture – feel the fabric in the curtains, see the paper on the wall with the portrait of Fred's father – the people, including Mary, taking afternoon tea, come to life – it is natural and free-flowing.
Then the large-scale portraits on one big canvas – I particularly like The Sheriff's Luncheon with Winston Churchill – over 40 clear portraits, I had not seen anyone paint such a huge number of recognisable people together before – beautiful. There are many things to recommend in this cracking book, Fred Elwell RA – A Life in Art. You won't be disappointed.
BBC Radio Humberside programme review, by Phil White, presenter and himself an artist of considerable knowledge of the subject
The new book Fred Elwell RA — A Life in Art is sumptuously illustrated and is truly a labour of love, impeccably researched with illuminating family photographs and colour reproductions of more than 140 pictures, mainly by Fred, but a few by Mary, along with background details and descriptions. Virtually every picture tells a real life story. This book would make a perfect present…
…If you can part with it!