Elsie March

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Elsie March
Base of National War Memorial.jpg
Two service-women are included among the bronze figures of the National War Memorial.
Born 3 October 1884
Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died 1974, Second quarter
Kent, England
Nationality British
Known for Sculpture, Metalwork, Painting
Notable work(s) "National War Memorial of Canada"
"Portrait of Harry Geoffrey Beasley"
"Mother and Child"
Awards Lady Feodora Gleichen Fund

Elsie March (1884, Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, England – 1974, Kent, England) was an English sculptor and one of eight artists in her family. After the death of her brother Vernon March, she and her brothers completed the National War Memorial of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. One of the family's three sculptors, her focus earlier in her career was metalwork and painting.

Background[edit]

Elsie March, daughter of George Henry March and his wife Elizabeth Blenkin,[1] was born on 3 October 1884 in Kingston upon Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.[2][3][4] Her father was employed as a seed crusher foreman (oil miller) in Yorkshire.[4][5] The family moved by 1901 to Battersea, London, England, where her father worked as a builder's clerk.[6] Elsie was the seventh of nine children, eight of whom became artists. Three of them were sculptors, Sydney, Elsie, and Vernon.[7] The other five artist siblings were Edward, Percival, Frederick, Dudley, and Walter. The ninth sibling was her sister Eva Blenkin March. Both of their parents died in 1904.[8][9]

By the 1911 census, all nine siblings, still single, were living together at the 17-room family home of Goddendene in Locksbottom, Farnborough, Kent, England.[10] Only two of the March siblings married, producing three children between them. Elsie's sister Eva married Charles Francis Newman in 1916.[11][12] They had one child, a daughter, Heather.[13] Her brother Frederick married a native of Scotland, Agnes Annie Gow, in 1926.[14] They had two children, Elizabeth and Cecil.[15][16]

Career[edit]

Elsie and her brothers established studios at their family home of Goddendene in Locksbottom, Farnborough after 1901.[6][7] On the seven acre grounds of the estate were three large studios, including a metal foundry. In order to work in natural daylight, the siblings arranged for the studios to have walls that could be slid back. The walls were tall enough that they could be utilised during wartime to hang up parachutes to dry.[17]

It was not unusual for the siblings to collaborate. Perhaps the best known example of this is The Response, the National War Memorial of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Her brother Vernon March, after an open, world-wide competition held in 1925, was one of seven finalists out of a total of 127 entrants. Those seven finalists were then asked to submit scale models of their designs.[18] Vernon was awarded the commission in January 1926, with his theme of "The Great Response of Canada."[7][19] However, the monument had not yet been completed when Vernon died of pneumonia in 1930.[7][18]

Elsie and five of her brothers completed the bronze statues for the memorial. The siblings moulded the figures in clay, cast them in plaster, and then created the bronzes at their studio foundry at Goddendene, completing the work by July 1932.[19] However, construction of the arch of the monument in Canada could not start because the site was not prepared. Instead, the bronze memorial groups were mounted on a base and displayed at Hyde Park in London for six months. Later, the figures were stored in the studio at Goddendene; they were sent to Ottawa in 1937.[19] It was there that the memorial base and arch were built after a contract was won by Montreal contractors E.G.M. Cape and Company in December 1937. March family members directed construction of the granite monument. The memorial, including installation of the bronzes, was completed on 19 October 1938. Landscaping of the surrounding area was completed in time for the Royal visit the following spring.[19]

The National War Memorial of Canada commemorates the Canadian response during World War I. It was unveiled by King George VI on 21 May 1939 during a ceremony witnessed by an estimated 100,000 people.[19] Vernon's design included large bronze statues of Victory and Liberty on top of an arch.[20] Below the arch, at the rear of the monument, there is a cannon. The memorial also features 22 bronze figures under the arch which represent the branches of the Canadian military that existed during the First World War.[20] Included among them are the figures of two service-women.[17]

Members of the March family also created smaller-scale works. Elsie March sculpted a bronze portrait bust of Harry Geoffrey Beasley (1882–1939), British anthropologist and museum curator, and a collector of ethnographic material. The bust, dated April 1939, is in the British Museum.[21] An exhibition of the March family's works was held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London in 1981.[21] In addition, on 2 August 1982, an auction of pictures and sculpture by six members of the March family took place at Sotheby's in Belgravia, Greater London. The six members included Edward, Sydney, Henry, Elsie, Dudley, and Vernon. Among the works created by Elsie were: a large sculpture of Sir Winston Churchill, a bust of Lawrence of Arabia dated 1936, a bust of Beethoven dated 1920, and a portrait bust entitled "Wendy" and dated 1953.[21] Early in her career, Elsie focused more on portrait painting and metalwork, producing items in a variety of metals, often silver, sometimes ornamented with enamels.[22]

In 1919, Elsie March exhibited two works at The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts Annual Exhibition. She exhibited seven times at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, for a total of nine works at the Royal Academy.[7] In addition, in 1943, she won the prize "Lady Feodora Gleichen Fund," initially administered by the Royal Academy of Arts and later the Royal Society of British Sculptors.[7] March was one of two recipients that year, for her terracotta statuette entitled "Mother and Child." The prize was established in 1922 to support young women sculptors.[23]

More bronze figures of the National War Memorial[edit]

Other collaborative works[edit]

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers South African War Memorial

One of the first monuments on which the March family collaborated was the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers South African War Memorial. All of the March artists had a hand in the creation of the memorial that was dedicated to the Inniskilling Fusiliers who died in the Boer War. Members of the family installed it themselves in 1902.[22] The monument was originally located on High Street in Omagh, County Tyrone and unveiled by the Duchess of Abercorn on 25 November 1904. However, it was moved to Drumragh Avenue in 1964 because it was considered a traffic hazard.[24][25]

Other works on which the family collaborated include the Lewes War Memorial at School Hill on High Street in Lewes, East Sussex, England. Vernon March was the primary sculptor.[26][27] The war memorial includes a central obelisk of Portland stone topped by a globe upon which a bronze winged Victory stands, her arms held aloft, a laurel wreath in one hand. Other bronze angels sit at the base of the war memorial, next to shields listing the names of deceased soldiers of World War I.[26][27] The monument was unveiled on 6 September 1922. It was rededicated on 1 March 1981, such that the fallen of the Second World War could also be commemorated. The Lewes War Memorial is on the National Heritage List for England.[26][27]

There is also a war memorial at Sydenham, London, England, which commemorates the fallen soldiers of World War I and II who were employees of the south suburban gas company.[28] The monument features a bronze figure of Victory. In addition, bronze plaques listed the names of the fallen soldiers, and those from the company who served in the wars.[28] Sydney March was the main sculptor for the Livesey Hall War Memorial, also known as the Sydenham War Memorial, which was unveiled by Lord Robert Cecil on 4 June 1920. In October 2011, the three bronze plaques from the front of the monument were stolen.[28][29]

Death[edit]

Elsie March died at age 89 in the second quarter of 1974 in the county of Kent, England.[3] She was the last surviving March sibling. Most of the members of the March family, including parents George and Elizabeth, are buried at Saint Giles the Abbot Churchyard in Farnborough. Their grave is marked by a bronze angel monument sculpted by her brother Sydney March in 1922.[7] Elsie's ashes were buried in the family plot on 7 June 1974. Her sister Eva was not interred at Saint Giles.[30] She died in 1964.[31]

Legacy[edit]

The Chelsfield Village Voice in April 2011 detailed the substance of a lecture that historian Paul Rason gave the previous month to the local history group. The talk was accompanied by photographs, including some of Goddendene. There were also images of the bronze figures of the National War Memorial of Canada. In addition, an exhibition featuring the work of local artists was held in 2011 in the Bromley Museum at The Priory on Church Hill in Orpington, in the London Borough of Bromley. The exhibition included scale models made by the March artists. Elsie March's bust of Sir Winston Churchill is displayed at the Bromley Library.[17] Her bust of Harry Geoffrey Beasley is at the British Museum in London.[21] Also, a black and white, silent movie filmed in 1924 reveals the March artists at work in their studios at Goddendene, and has been reproduced by British Pathé.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837–1915, for George Henry March and Elizabeth Blenkin
  2. ^ March, Elsie. "England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837–1915". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  3. ^ a b March, Elsie. "England & Wales, Death Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  4. ^ a b March, Elsie. "1891 England Census". ancestry.com. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891. The National Archives of the UK (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  5. ^ March, George H. "1881 England Census". ancestry.com. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881. The National Archives of the UK (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  6. ^ a b March, Elsie. "1901 England Census". ancestry.com. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901. The National Archives, 1901 (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g March, Elsie. "Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain & Ireland 1851–1951". sculpture.gla.ac.uk. University of Glasgow History of Art and HatII. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  8. ^ England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index: 1837–1915, for George Henry March
  9. ^ England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index: 1837–1915, for Elizabeth March
  10. ^ March, Elsie. "1911 England Census". ancestry.com. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. The National Archives of the UK, 1911 (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  11. ^ March, Eva B. "England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  12. ^ Newman, Charles F. "England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  13. ^ England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005 for Heather Newman
  14. ^ March, Frederic H. "England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  15. ^ March, Elizabeth E. "England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  16. ^ Marsh, Cecil G. "England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  17. ^ a b c "Local History Group". chelsfieldevents.co.uk. Chelsfield Village Voice. April 2011. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Baker, Eamonn (15 July 2008). "Memorial to a celebrated sculptor". Derry Journal. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c d e "The Response". veterans.gc.ca. Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  20. ^ a b "Our Military Heritage – The National War Memorial". legion.ca. The Royal Canadian Legion. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Portrait of Harry Geoffrey Beasley". britishmuseum.org. Trustees of the British Museum. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Nine Artists In One Family". The Sydney Mail. 17 February 1909. p. 12. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  23. ^ "Lady Feodora Gleichen Fund (Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Society of British Sculptors), 1922–1951". sculpture.gla.ac.uk. Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  24. ^ "The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers South African War Memorial". omagh.gov.uk. Omagh District Council. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "War Memorials – The design and placing of memorials". historyfromheadstones.com. History from Headstones. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  26. ^ a b c "Object Details – War Memorial". publicsculpturesofsussex.co.uk. Public Sculptures of Sussex, hosted by Cultural Informatics Research Group, University of Brighton. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  27. ^ a b c English Heritage. "War Memorial (1191738)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  28. ^ a b c English Heritage. "Livesey Hall War Memorial (1253111)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  29. ^ "Sydenham, South Suburban Gas Works WW1 and WW2 War Memorial". lewishamwarmemorials.wikidot.com. Lewisham War Memorials by Local History and Archives Centre, Lewisham. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  30. ^ "Burial and Cremation Records". farnborough-kent-parish.org. St. Giles the Abbot, Farnborough (Kent). Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  31. ^ Newman, Eva B. "England & Wales, Death Index: 1916–2005". ancestry.com. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes General Register Office (as re-printed on Ancestry.com). 
  32. ^ "Sister And Seven Brothers". britishpathe.com. British Pathé. 1924. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 

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