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Monsell, Elinor Mary

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Biography: Limerick-born Elinor Mary Darwin (née Monsell, 1871 – 1954) was a printmaker, illustrator and portrait painter. She began her art training when she was awarded a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Art in 1896. While a student it is believed that she learning the art of wood engraving from Japanese print enthusiast and poet Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943). Though domiciled for much of her life in England she was involved in the Irish Literary Revival and was a close acquaintance of W B Yeats and Lady Gregory. In 1904, Monsell was invited by Yeats to design the Abbey Theatre logo – the original woodcut depicted the ancient Queen Maeve and an Irish wolfhound. Yeats also commissioned her to design the pressmark for the Dun Emer Press in 1907, which comprised an image of the Irish mythical figure of Emer beside a tree. Monsell also provided original wood engraved designs for Vale Press publications and her work appeared in the single edition of ‘The venture; an annual of art and literature’ edited by Laurence Housman and Somerset Maugham in 1903. Monsell’s illustrations also appeared in the ‘Dublin Magazine’ in January and March of 1924. She married Bernard Darwin (1876–1961), golf writer and grandson of the British naturalist Charles Darwin in 1906. She illustrated some of her husband's books for children, such as the ‘Tootleoo’ series which began in 1925. Monsell also introduced her husband's cousin Gwen Raverat (née Darwin, 1885-1957) to the process of wood engraving. Raverat became one of the leading figures in the British wood engraving revival of the 1920s.

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