Young woman
The Soper Collection

Eileen Alice Soper (26 March 1905 – 18 March 1990) was an English illustrator best-known for her illustrations of the works of Enid Blyton
English children's writer whose books have been among the world's best-sellers since the 1930s, selling more than 600 million copies.
, most notably the entire series of Famous Five adventures. Eileen was also an author her own right, writing and illustrating twenty-three books herself, many on various wildlife topics.[1][2]

Eileen was born in Enfield, London, the youngest daughter of artist George Soper (1870–1942) and his wife Ada (née Lehany).[3] She and her elder sister Eva were educated at Olive Downing’s School in Knebworth and Hitchin Girls’ School.[1] By 1907 George had purchased a plot of land in Harmer Green, near Welwyn, in Hertfordshire, where he built the family home known as Wildings by the sisters,[4] and where Eileen remained for the rest of her life.

At the age of fifteen, Eileen became the youngest artist ever to have a picture hung at the Royal Academy.[2]

Artistic career

Tutored by her father from an early age, Eileen soon began to rival him in talent and outshine him in popularity. She first exhibited her etchings in 1921, and initially focused on portraying children at play.[3] But the Great Depression of the 1930s encouraged her, with some reluctance, to undertake illustration commissions, for which she is best remembered today.[2] Eileen thus moved from “treating children as her subject to making them her public”, and by the time of her father’s death in 1942 she was working primarily as an illustrator.[1]

Eileen became increasingly interested in portraying wildlife, and in 1964 was a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists.[1]

Later life

After inheriting Wildings in 1942 Eileen allowed the garden planted by her father to be rewilded, to encourage the local wildlife. She and her sister Eva continued to live there until Eileen’s death in March 1990; Eva died a few months later.[1]