Elizabeth Armstrong was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1859. Her father encouraged her artistic abilities. He died of a stroke after sending Elizabeth and her mother (as chaperone) to school in England. Elizabeth returned to Canada in 1878. Elizabeth and her mother soon moved to New York where Elizabeth enrolled in the Art Students League. Elizabeth stayed at the League for three years, studying with William Merritt Chase. Chase was a strong proponent of painting from life and encouraged his students to do the same. Chase directed Elizabeth to continue her studies in Munich, where Chase had been trained. In Munich, Elizabeth confronted many difficult barriers. Being a woman and Canadian-born, she suffered much discrimination. After only five months of study, Elizabeth chose to return to Canada to escape the prejudice.
In 1882, Elizabeth persuaded her mother to move again. This time they traveled to Pont Avon, Brittany. There she participated in an active and lively art colony dedicated to outdoor study. In 1885, Elizabeth and her mother continued on to Newlyn. By this time, an uncle in London helped to establish a market for Elizabeth’s watercolors and etchings. It was in Newlyn where she met her future husband, the painter, Stanhope Forbes. They married in 1889. At that time, Stanhope was considered the leader of the Newlyn style.
Elizabeth was extremely hard-working and prolific; her marriage did little to change her habits. She showed her work at the Grosvenor Gallery in London as well as at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists. She won a Gold Medal in 1893 at the Chicago Exhibition. She also raised a son, taught classes, wrote poetry and edited The Paperchase, a magazine produced for the Newlyn artists. Elizabeth’s sensitive paintings of children were recognized for their fine draughtsmanship and color.
Elizabeth owned a movable studio on wheels. She would take this studio to locations and paint her models at the scene. Tragically, Elizabeth died in 1912 at the age of 53.
Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn SchoolCarolyn Fox
David and Charles Publishers
The Good Simple Life: Artists Colonies in America and Europe
It becomes a duel a l’outrance between artist and model, till at last, with the conviction that inextinguishable hatred has been kindled in those childish breasts the painter…returns on his road. But the children keep no grudges; the same rows of smiling eyes watch for my coming the next day and the duel begins anew…~Elizabeth Forbes talking about using children as models.