Eleanor Brickdale was the youngest child of a barrister. She began her formal study of art at 17 enrolling in the Crystal Palace School of Art and then the Royal Academy School in London. In 1894 her father was killed in an alpine accident and the family moved to Kensington. She began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in the black and white section starting in 1896 and won a prize for her painting, spring in 1897. That same year she had a feature in The Studio on her work.
The prize money from her award let her concentrate on larger paintings for the Royal Academy shows. Her first large scale oils were shown at the RA in 1899. That same year she illustrated Sir Walter Scotts Ivanhoe. In the summer of that same year she received a commission from London Gallery owners Walter and Charles Dowdeswell for a solo show of watercolors, to be delivered and paid for in quarterly installments over the next two years. The exhibition of forty five pictures opened in 1901. The show was widely reviewed and well praised and all except two paintings were sold.
Brickdale received another article in The Studio in 1901 with eight monochrome and two color pieces written by Walter Shaw Sparrow. The next year Brickdale was the first woman elected to the Institute of Painters in Oils and became an associate member of the Royal Watercolor Society.
More book commissions came in and Brickdale continued to regularly exhibit her watercolors in the bi-annual shows at the Royal Watercolor Society from 1902 and at least one oil painting a year at the Royal Academy. Dowdeswell Galleries renewed their commission for another show of watercolors in 1905. In 1909 Leicester Galleries commissioned a show of 28 works based on Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
Brickdale and her work continued to be popular and more commissions for book illustrations and gallery shows kept her busy until 1932 when her eyesight began to fail.
Brickdale suffered a stroke in 1938 but continued to show paintings at the Royal Watercolor Society shows until 1942. Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale died in London in 1945 at the age of 73.
Women Artists and the Pre-Raphealite Movement
Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerish Nunn
1989 Virago Press