Swanwick, Betty (1915-89)

Betty Swanwick was born on 22 May 1915. Swanwick was educated at a local LCC elementary school, and later at the Prendergast Grammar School, Lewisham, and South London. She received her first lessons in art from her father, and was encouraged by her art mistress at the Prendergast. Her father died when she was ten years old, a loss that threw her upon her own determination to develop as an artist. Four years later, she received scholarships to both the Central School of Arts and the Royal College of Art, and attended them at the same time as Goldsmiths. In 1950, a rare solo exhibition at The Little Gallery provided a showcase for Swanwick’s anthropomorphic watercolours, which combined her love of animals and sense of fun in the most delightful way. Her mural designs, for venues such as the Festival of Britain (1951) and the Evelina Children’s Hospital (1955) [199], were equally successful manifestations of her jaunty early style. She eventually resigned as Senior Lecturer in 1970, and left her home in Greenwich for Downgate, Tidebrook, Sussex. By this time, Swanwick was working increasingly on large-scale figurative watercolours and drawings, and exhibiting them regularly at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Gradually receiving some recognition, she was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1972, and a Royal Academician seven years later. She was also elected a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours in 1976. Swanwick died in hospital, in Tunbridge Wells, on her birthday, 22 May 1989.

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