Ethel L. Gabain RBA, ROI, SWA

Ethel L. Gabain RBA, ROI, SWA

1883 - 1950

b. 1883 in Le Harve, France; d. 1950 in London, England

Painter of portraits and figures in oils; lithographer and etcher.

Ethel Gabain studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. It is believed that she also spent a small period training in Paris. Living in Britain, Gabain was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists. In 1932 she was elected a member of the RBA, in 1934 to the Society of Women Artists (RWA), and in 1935 to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI). In 1940 Gabain became an Official War Artist working under the War Artists' Advisory Committee (WAAC).

Gabain is best known for her portraits in oils, particularly of actresses in character roles. Such images depict elegantly dressed women often located within intimate interiors and reveal a feminine softness in Gabain’s painterly style. Gabain also produced many portraits of various hospital staff and military servicemen and women during WWII. Emotive scenes of injured women and children are recurring features within her war imagery. Her lithographs were considered more successful than her etchings and drypoints. She was commissioned to produce lithographs on the subjects of evacuation and the Women's Voluntary Service. Gabain also took painting commissions, including a portrait of Alexander Fleming (Imperial War Museum).

Gabain is represented by a number of public collections including Imperial War Museum, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, and Royal Shakespeare Company Collection. Regional collections include Brighton, Bushey, Chester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stoke-on-Trent, Watford and Wolverhampton, among others.

Benjamin Angwin - October 2014