Please donate to The Soper Collection
Further donations will be used to expand and enhance the facilities at the Pannett Art Gallery.
VERY, VERY, EXCITING NEWS!
It has been a while since our last Newsletter but on the Home Page and other pages of our website you will have seen that we have been exploring the opportunities for a permanent home for The Soper Collection. We are delighted to announce that the new home is the Pannett Art Gallery, Whitby. This is really wonderful news.
The curator, Helen Berry, writes: “We are delighted that the Soper Trust has selected the Pannett Art Gallery to be the new home for The Soper Collection. This is a really exciting opportunity for the Pannett Gallery and for Whitby. We are looking forward to showcasing the work of this family of fabulously gifted artists, to raising awareness of their talents and to engaging the public including children with the story of their lives and the themes portrayed in their artwork.”
Much of George Soper’s first artwork was at Whitby where the old Whitby Gazette records show that he visited with the family in 1911, 1912 and 1913.
The Town Mayor of Whitby, Cllr Linda Wild, writes: “I would like to thank the Soper Trust for entrusting this wonderful collection to the care of the Pannett Art Gallery. Our gallery attracts visitors from across the world. We are really pleased that existing and future audiences of all ages will now have the opportunity to see and engage with these beautiful artworks alongside our established collections.”
Chris Beetles Gallery writes: “The Soper Family: Since 1990 Chris Beetles Limited has managed the estate of George and Eileen Soper on behalf of the Artists General Benevolent Institution (AGBI) to whom Eileen willed all future incomes. But, even we were staggered by the treasure trove that we found behind the door of their home in Hertfordshire; brilliant and sensitive artwork from 2 generations of artists, a time capsule of a passing world.
Such unique work and lives had to be marked and recorded and in 1995, after 5 years of research and cataloguing, we held the first of several shows dedicated to their work and released two publications, The Art of George and Eileen Soper and the Catalogue Raisonné of the prints of George and Eileen Soper.
The Sopers are a truly remarkable family of artists and it has been a privilege to have been involved in the establishment of them in their right place as a quintessential essence of the talent of British Art in the 20th century. The Soper Collection has been formed with equal passion and love over the last 30 years and we are thrilled that the Pannett Gallery is now its very appropriate home. The Soper Collection will now be able to realise its full potential and teach and give joy to future generations, through the eyes of this very unique artist family.”
Harriet Mead, President of the Society of Wildlife Artists writes: “Eileen Soper was one of the founder members of the Society of Wildlife Artists, exhibiting every year from the inaugural show in 1964 through to 1988. The Society was born from an exhibition dedicated to contemporary Bird Painters which was the brainchild of Robert Gillmor and Eric Ennion, with support from Peter Scott and Keith Shackleton, who realised that in the late 1950’s there were few opportunities for wildlife themed work to be exhibited. The success of this initial exhibition at the Reading Art Gallery in 1960 led to support from Maurice Bradshaw, Director of the Art Exhibition Bureau, who organised a year-long tour of the show. The enthusiasm of provisional galleries extended the tour for a further year and in 1964 the first exhibition of the newly formed Society of Wildlife Artists was held at 6 1 / 2 Suffolk Street in London. A handful of years later the SWLA joined the Federation of British Artists and have held their annual exhibition at Mall Galleries with the FBA ever since. As a highly regarded and established artist, Eileen would have been invited to exhibit her charming paintings of wildlife as a founding member. Her work was beautifully executed and carefully observed, an important criteria for exhibition to this day.”
And Andrew Haslen, Artist member of the SWLA and at whose gallery, The Wildlife Gallery, Lavenham, the initial shows of George and Eileen’s work were held, writes: “I have painted and drawn wildlife for as long as I can remember. In 1988 I was elected to the Society of Wildlife Artists. I have taken part in both solo and mixed exhibitions at many galleries and museums. I have travelled to many endangered natural areas with the Artists for Nature Foundation, from Poland to Alaska and many in-between, sketching nature in its natural habitat, raising awareness through art to help save and protect wildlife in these disappearing sites.
For thirty years I ran the Wildlife Art Gallery in Suffolk, exhibiting and specializing in British artists of the 20th and early 21st centuries both past and present. We proudly held exhibitions by artists such as Eric Ennion, Peter Scott, R.B. Talbot Kelly, Winifred Austin, Robert Gillmor and many, many more. By sorting and cataloguing sketches, drawings, etchings and paintings from artists’ studios, cupboards, attics, sheds in gardens and anywhere else paintings can be stored, I have handled more paintings and artwork by British Wildlife Artists than most and I feel confident in judging artists’ work.
One of these artists was Eileen Soper, taught by her father George Soper. She was a very talented painter, etcher and illustrator of her time. She left behind a huge amount of artwork which was a delight to go through and sort for exhibiting and filing. I have no difficulty in placing her alongside the likes of Eric Ennion, C. Tunnicliffe and Raymond Shepperd. Her mammal work was second to none, especially the paintings she made of badgers. Some of the studies she produced were the best I have ever come across. I would dearly love to have been able to watch her hand move across the paper in such a confident way to produce drawings, as she did, time after time, with such life.”
Timing has been opportune. There is currently running a National Initiative: The Wild Escape. Pannett Art Gallery is taking part in this lovely project using Eileen Soper’s bird paintings and Eva Soper’s bird figurines as inspiration for creative work. Other workshops will undoubtedly follow. In the summer, from 24th June to 17th September 2023, Pannett Art Gallery is showing an exhibition: The Natural World – The Artwork of George, Eileen and Eva Soper. Please see Pannett Art Gallery’s website for details www.pannettartgallery.org.
Eva Soper’s bird figurines were produced by The Royal Worcester Porcelain company from 1937 until 1986, 49 years – a truly amazing feat which speaks for itself.
We said “Exciting”. It certainly is. All donated money has been passed to Pannett Gallery for constructive use there and the gallery is indeed most grateful for the support you have given The Soper Collection. You are all a part of this story as now the glory of the Soper Family artwork will be revealed to the public over the years to come. We hope you will all be able to visit Pannett Art Gallery this summer or in the very near future.
Any continued financial support to The Soper Collection, which will be sent to Pannett Gallery, will be very greatly appreciated as Pannett Art Gallery extends their gallery accommodation and fitments. They have wonderful plans to do so. We say “Exciting” yet again!
We would not have achieved all that we have without the support of many people and organisations. The donations we have received, both large and small, have enabled our vision to come to fruition.
We encourage you to visit Pannett Art Gallery at your earliest opportunity and wish you a wonderful visit.
We thank you all and send you our very best wishes,
Geoff Lindsey Smith (Chair), Jane Gosling, Joy Baker.
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