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In 1921, with an etching created when she was 15, Eileen became one of the youngest artists ever to exhibit at The Royal Academy. Her father, undoubtedly, noticed her considerable talent and encouraged her to showcase her work.
Following a flurry of sales to the American market, she was again honoured when Queen Mary bought her ‘Flying Swings’ print in 1924.
Undeniably, Eileen’s skills lay in her inimitable understanding of the joy, freedom and liveliness of children. Much of her earlier work was of children at play, mostly created when she was still a child herself.
She had a unique ability to capture the precise feeling of a particular moment, whether it be the weightlessness of a high-flying swing, a moment of mischief or the discovery of a new creature
Later, Eileen would use these same observations for her watercolour illustrative work, most famously commissioned to illustrate Enid Blyton’s books, including the popular Famous Five series.
Again, her understanding of children’s movement, combined with her attention to detail, brought adventure to life.
Like her sister Eva, Eileen was fascinated by wildlife and, in particular, by the badgers living in the nearby fields and woods. She would spend entire nights camped outside, immobile for hours, watching badger families play, hunt and bond. Slowly, she gained the trust of several badger families and, by feeding them, gained a view into their habits.
It was this study of badgers and other natural fauna that led to an explosion of illustrations, many of which she published in her own books such as Wild Encounters, When Badgers Wake and Muntjac.
Soon she was established not only as an artist but a naturalist in her own right. Some of her glorious, large watercolours were exhibited at the exhibitions held by The Society of Wildlife Artists, but most have never been seen publicly.
This love of nature was clearly evident when the house was cleared following Eva’s death. Several mice and other creatures were found to wander freely into, and make their homes within, the house.
Like her father before her, Eileen clearly understood movement. She had a keen eye and a talent for translating the subject to paper with astonishing accuracy and fluidity.
Eileen’s work forms a considerable portion of The Soper Collection, visitors will be able to see a large and varied range of her watercolour and etching work, as well as many of her illustrations for Enid Blyton and her own published books.
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