Eileen Soper RMS 1905–1990
SWLA Founder Member
Eileen Alice Soper, born in 1905, was the daughter of George Soper RE (1870−1942). George Soper was a distinguished engraver, etcher and painter, most remembered for his rural scenes and pictures of heavy horses at work. In 1908 he bought a plot of land in Hertfordshire and built a house and planted a large wild garden to attract wildlife. Here Eileen grew up and was encouraged by her father from an early age, and soon rivalled him in talent and surpassed him in popularity.
She had her etchings first displayed at the Royal Academy by the age of 15, one of the youngest ever exhibitors, which brought her popular success in both the UK and USA. The popularity of her images of children at play led to success as a book illustrator in the 1920s and 1930s and from 1941 she began a collaboration with Enid Blyton to illustrate her books including most of the Famous Five series. After her father’s death in 1942 she took over the house and continued to publish children’s books. In the early 1950s she started badger watching, an activity that fascinated her. She wrote ‘When Badgers Wake’ in 1955 followed by further titles ‘Wild Encounters’ and ‘Muntjac’. She gradually became more reclusive and painted obsessively in her garden, into which she encouraged badgers, foxes, Muntjac deer, otters, birds and fieldmice. A founder member of the SWLA, she continued to send 4–5 paintings to their annual exhibition until her death in 1990. The house and garden were left to the RSPB and a collection of her paintings and drawing were given to the Artist’s General Benevolent Institution.