Eileen Alice Soper (Enfield, Middlesex, 26 March 1905 – 18 March 1990) was an etcher and illustrator of children's and wildlife books. She produced a series of etchings mainly of children playing and illustrated books for other writers, notably for Enid Blyton and Elizabeth Gould, and wrote and illustrated her own children's book. Some of her illustrations of children and animals were used in a china series for children by Paragon China in the 1930s. Later in life she concentrated on writing and illustrating wildlife books. She was a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) and was elected a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers (RMS) in 1972.
Eileen Soper was born in 1905 in Enfield and moved to the house that she was to spend the rest of her life in Harmer Green, Welwyn in the Hertfordshire countryside in 1908. The house she later named "Wildings" was built by her father, the artist George Soper, and Eileen and her older sister, the artist Eva, inherited the house after his death in 1942 and lived there for the rest of their lives. She attended Hitchin Girls School and was artistically trained mostly by her father.
Eileen showed early promise as an artist and two of her etchings were shown in the Royal Academy in London at the age of 15 after she showed three prints at an exhibition organised by the International Society of Printmakers in California. She continued to produce around 180 etchings mostly of children at play into the early 1930s. Queen Mary bought two of her etchings, among them 'Flying Swings'in 1924. Her work was popular and well received and shown in the UK and the USA.
Today Eileen Soper is best known for her collaboration with Enid Blyton, most notably all of the Famous Five books.
Eileen Soper also published her own children's books in the 1940s, a book of poetry and from the 1950s on worked mostly on her wildlife illustrations of British wildlife around her house in Welwyn.
Both Eileen and her sister Eva lived in Wildings until they fell ill at similar times, both passing away in 1990.
Published books (Author)
- Happy Rabbit (1947)
- Dormouse awake (1948)
- Sail away, shrew (1949)
- When badgers wake (1955)
- Wild encounters (1957)
- Wanderers of the field (1959)
- Wild Favours (1963)
- Muntjac (1969)
- Songs on the wind (1948)
Published books (Illustrator)
- Famous Five Series (Enid Blyton, 1942–1963)
- Drabble, Phil (1979). No badgers in my wood. London: Joseph. ISBN 0718118537.
- The Golden Years (Christine Chaundler), 1950, publisher Robert Hale Ltd (London)
"Six in a Caravan" Bridget Mackenzie, 1945, publisher George Newness Ltd.
Books on Eileen Soper and her work
- Hart-Davis, Duff (1991). Wildings: the secret garden of Eileen Soper. London: Witherby. ISBN 9780854932092.
- The Catalogue raisonne of the prints of George and Eileen Soper (David Wootton, 1995)
- Herts Memories by Catherine Davies Retrieved 18 January 2013