Fred Elwell was born in Beverley in 1870, as the youngest of six children. His father, James Elwell, was a cabinet maker and wood carver, who was twice mayor of Beverley. Fred studied art from the age of 15, at Lincoln, in Holland and in Paris. In 1914, he married Mary Dawson Holmes, also a talented artist. They lived together at Bar House, Beverley, for many years. Mary's secure financial position allowed Fred to travel abroad and paint continental landscapes. However, he is best known for his portraits of local people. He regularly exhibited in London, including at the Royal Academy, but remained very much a Beverley artist. In all, he produced more than 500 paintings and continued to work until very shortly before his death. In 1958, he bequeathed 55 paintings by himself and his wife to the Beverley Art Gallery.