SPILLER, Ethel Mary

1859 - 1953

Ethel Mary Spiller

Ethel Mary Spiller was born at Charlton, Kent on 25 August 1859, eldest child of John Spiller (20 June 1833-8 November 1921), an analytical chemist who worked for the War Department at Woolwich, and his first wife Caroline Ada née Pritchard (15 November 1832-1873), who married at Stoke Newington-Green, Chapel, London on 17 August 1858. In 1871, Ethel was an 11-year-old, living at 35 Grosvenor Road, Islington with her parents, 37-year-old John and 38-year-old Caroline, and three siblings, Arnold John 8, Beatrice 3 and Claude Pritchard 1. Ethel studied at the Royal Female School of Art from about 1875 and in 1881, a 21-year-old art student, living at 2 St Mary's Road, Islington with her father John and his second wife Emma née Davenport (1852-22 March 1926), and two siblings, Arnold and Claude, Ethel later had a stepbrother Revd Leonard Spiller (21 January 1890-8 November 1952). Ethel continued her studies at the Royal Female School of Art where she passed examinations in 1876-1880 and exhibited regularly, winning awards in 1883 for her oil and watercolour work and in 1884 one of her prize-winning fans was purchased by Queen Victoria. In 1886 she spent six months in Paris where one of her watercolour portraits was exhibited at the Paris Salon. In January 1887, Ethel took the position as Drawing Mistress at the York School of Art but remained only a couple of months resigning in March the same year but entered their teacher's examinations in April and May with a painting from still life and she registered as a teacher at Highbury, London 1888-1914. Sometime during the 1880s Ethel lived at York Road, Southwold, Suffolk from where she painted at least two paintings of the area, but by 1891 was back at St Mary's Road, Islington, a 31-year-old drawing mistress. In the summer of 1915, a shortage in the 'Fresh Air Fund’s' finances meant that many City school children, who might otherwise have gone to the country, were left to their own devices during the school holidays. The more enterprising of them ventured through the Victoria & Albert’s portals where ‘their attention was occupied with dodging the policemen behind statues and showcases’. With the help of the energetic and redoubtable Ethel Spiller, a volunteer guide and secretary of the Art Teachers’ Guild and, with other ladies, the V & A laid on ‘holiday instruction’ for its ‘more youthful visitors’, providing 'a small room’ in which children would be given ‘elementary instruction about objects in the Museum’. In 1939, a retired art teacher, living at Sunny Bank Boarding House, Llanwrtyd, Breconshire, Wales. Ethel Mary Spiller was of 15 The Priory, Leominster, Herefordshire when she died at Kingsland Nursing Home, Leominster on 9 January 1953, age 93, she was unmarried.

Works by This Artist