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Betty Swanwick RA RWS (1915-1989)

Ada Elizabeth Edith Swanwick, RA RWS (1915-1989)

Very early in her career, Betty Swanwick established herself as an illustrator and designer of great wit and invention, so complementing her friend and teacher, Edward Bawden. Later, she produced an extraordinary series of visionary watercolours and drawings in the tradition of William Blake and Samuel Palmer, which led to her election as a Draughtsman Member of the Royal Academy.

Betty Swanwick was born on 22 May 1915, the elder daughter of Harry Swanwick, who developed as a marine watercolourist while serving as a Paymaster in the Royal Naval Reserves. She was baptised at St Peter’s Church, Aldborough Hatch, near Ilford, Essex.

Swanwick was educated at a local LCC elementary school, and later at the Prendergast Grammar School, Lewisham, 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.

During her formative years and into early adulthood, Swanwick would continue to live in South London, first at Forest Hill and then at Sydenham.

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