Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lily Elsie: Too Beautiful to Paint?

This is one of several posts featuring show business stars active from the 1880s to around 1920. It was a period when photography and portrait painting uneasily coexisted where notable people were being depicted. On my mind is the thought that really beautiful women are better pictured in photographs than in portrait paintings.

Today's subject is Lily Elsie (1886-1962), a popular star of London musicals whose personal life ended badly, as her Wikipedia entry indicates. A website devoted to Elsie is here.

So far as I can find, there is only one portrait of Elsie painted by a leading artist, that by American expatriate James Jebusa Shannon in 1916. On the other hand, many photographic portraits were taken of Elsie, most of which seem to be publicity-related (as might be expected).


Some photos of Elsie; yes, she really was a beauty. The final photo was taken when she was about 40 years old and still looking very good.

An illustration publicizing the 1911 show "The Count of Luxembourg." The resolution is poor, but all the versions of usable size I could find were like this.

A postcard image by Talbot Hughes.

Lily Elsie by James Jebusa Shannon, 1916.

1 comment:

Hels said...

Thanks for the reference, particularly since I knew nothing about Lily Elsie. It said that "in 1920, Elsie moved with her husband to the Gloucestershire village of Redmarley D'Abitot, spending ten more years away from the stage".

No wonder she went mad. From the excitement of a busy and creative life to watching trees stand still in a rural village :(