Elsie March (1884-1974)

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Elsie March (1884-1974) is best known as an accomplished sculptor, although earlier in her career she focused on painting. She was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1932.

Born in Kingston upon Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, she was one of nine siblings, eight of which, remarkably, became artists. Elsie’s father was a seed-crusher foreman in Yorkshire, then the family moved to Battersea in London in 1901 where her father was employed as a builder’s clerk. Both of the March parents died in 1904. By 1911 the nine March siblings had moved into a seventeen-room house called ‘Goddendene’ at Locksbottom, Farnborough, Kent. Within the seven-acre grounds the siblings established three large studios, including a metal foundry.

The siblings sometimes collaborated artistically, their most famous commission being the National War Memorial of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, commemorating the Canadian response during World War I. It was Elsie’s brother Vernon who won the commission in 1926, following a worldwide competition with over one hundred entrants. Vernon sadly died, however, in 1930 before its completion and Elsie and five of her brothers completed the bronze statues for the memorial. The statues were sent to Ottawa in 1937 and March family members directed construction of the granite monument, which was unveiled by King George VI in 1939.

Elsie March’s other works include a large sculpture of Sir Winston Churchill and busts of Beethoven 1920, Lawrence of Arabia 1936, and Harry Geoffrey Beasley, anthropologist and museum curator, 1939, which is now in the British Museum.

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 and in 1943, she won the ‘Lady Feodora Gleichen Fund’ prize, initially administered by the Royal Academy of Arts and later the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

Other collaborative works by the March family include the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers South African War Memorial, the Lewes War Memorial, East Sussex and the Sydenham War Memorial.