North Essex

Isabel Alexander

Isabel Alexander (1910-1996), artist and illustrator, trained during the 1930s in Birmingham and at the Slade School of Art, London, and then travelled widely in Europe and worked in documentary film before settling in East Anglia and, in her later years, Yorkshire. Best known for her dramatic and distinctive landscapes and seascapes, she was also a keen portraitist and experimented with abstraction. She was influenced by her great love of landscape and the natural world, as well as her concern to document lives and work in industrial and rural communities. She also illustrated, wrote and autolithographed one of the celebrated Puffin Picture Books. Alexander’s body of work includes paintings, drawings, sketches and illustrations. Like many women artists of her generation she struggled for opportunity and recognition in a field that was overwhelming male; and like many more women across society as a whole she had to reconcile ambition with financial pressures and the demands of single parenting. Interest in her work has grown since her death, prompted by a major retrospective at the Mercer Gallery, Harrogate, and the substantial illustrated monograph Isabel Alexander: artist and illustrator by Janet McKenzie, both in 2017. In 2021 Parthian Press published a lavish new edition of Miner’s Day, the book by miner-writer B.L.Coombes that first appeared, with Isabel Alexander’s illustrations, in 1945. The new edition includes nearly 80 of the artist’s South Wales images of mining, miners, and – unusually – their wives and children, many of them never seen before, together with an illuminating essay by art historian Peter Wakelin.


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