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Susan Beatrice Pearse (1878-1980)

Susan Beatrice Pearse (1878-1980)

The painter and illustrator, Susan Beatrice Pearse, was best known for the ‘Ameliaranne’ series of children’s books, and brought a great consistency of charm to the 20 volumes by eight different authors, as indeed she did to all her work.

Susan Beatrice Pearse was born in Kennington, London, on 19 January 1878, one of the children of the journalist, William Pearse. Though educated at King Edward’s School, Southwark, she spent much of her childhood in Fair Oak, near Eastleigh, Hampshire. She then studied at New Cross Art School (1897-1901) and the Royal College of Art (from 1902), winning a number of Board of Education competitions. While at the RCA, she met the portrait painter, Walter Ernest Webster, and they eventually married in Fulham late in 1919. They then lived at Broom Villa, Broomhouse Road, Parsons Green.

Illustrating books from the turn of the century, Pearse was best known for her work on the ‘Ameliaranne’ series, concerning the eldest daughter of an improverished washerwoman. Published by George G Harrap between 1920 and 1950, the 20 picture books were produced in collaboration with eight different women authors, including Eleanor Farjeon, Margaret Gilmour, Constance Heward and Natalie Joan.

Her other illustrative work included contributions to Arthur Mee’s
The Children’s Encyclopaedia and a memorable advertising campaign for Start-rite Shoes. She also exhibited watercolours at such leading societies as the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and the Society of Women Artists, and at galleries in Paris and Vienna.

Pearse divided her later life between Broom Villa, Parson’s Green, and a cottage in Blewbury, Berkshire. She died in London on 3 January 1980, 18 days short of her 102nd birthday.

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