Eleanor Vere Boyle

Once Upon a Canvas: Exploring Fairy Tale Illustrations from 1870-1942

Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916)

Eleanor Vere Boyle was born in 1825, the youngest daughter of Alexander Gordon of Ellon Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She married the Reverend Richard Boyle in 1845, who was the son of the 8th Earl of Cork. The Revered served as a rector in Somerset and later served as Queen Victoria’s chaplain. Boyle out-lived her husband (who died in 1896) and three of her five children, dying in 1916 at the age of 91.

Boyle put her talent as a watercolorist to use illustrating children’s books, books of poetry and other literature. However, because of her social standing, her artwork was primarily recreational rather than professional. Boyle rarely took money for her art, nor did she put it on exhibit due to her class status, as this would have been seen as déclassé in that time period. In order to mask her identity, Boyle’s visual art and books often used her initials–E.V.B. –as a pseudonym.

Boyle was also interested in literature and garden design.  Her interest in gardens is evident in the detailed depictions of nature in many of her paintings. Not only was Boyle a talented illustrator, she was also an accomplished author of children’s books such as Child’s Play (1852) and A New Child’s Play (1877). Boyle illustrated Sarah Austen’s translation of The Story Without an End in 1868. Four years later she began illustrating Hans Christian Andersen tales, and was one of the first British illustrators to do so. She also published an aid to meditation comprised of her watercolors set alongside poetry from various authors, as well as numerous books on gardening. Boyle is considered to one of the most important female illustrators of the Victorian era.

-Brenna Funck