EDITH HILDER was happy to be known as a flower artist, whether for decorating fabrics or pottery, illustrating books, or painting pictures to hang on people's walls. All her life she was happiest working direct from nature, with a freshness that brought her a following in her own right rather than as the wife of the artist Rowland Hilder.
Edith Blenkiron met Rowland Hilder when they were both art students at Goldsmiths' College, London. It was not long before she was travelling with him to Shropshire, in search of wintry scenes for a set of illustrations for his latest publishing commission - Mary Webb's best-seller Precious Bane (1924). So it came about that Edith was in at the birth of the first 'Hilderscapes', which were to hasten their joint careers. For Edith, though, with her innate sensibility for nature, it was always the wild flower or the hedgerow that quickened her artist's eye. In the early 1950s a chance to publicise her work arose when Shell commissioned the Hilders to produce an illustrated Guide to the Countryside, which was to be serialised in the leading colour magazines of the day.
Edith's lovingly drawn and botanically accurate water-colours, with landscape backgrounds in Rowland's by then familiar hand, proved enormously popular. The 12 paintings, three for each season, reached some 10 million readers a month. Later, with Geoffrey Grigson's text, a selection of Edith's drawings was issued in book form (1955), with the same success.
These publications, combined with her appearances at the Royal Academy and the annual exhibitions of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours, helped to establish her as a notable painter in her own right. In 1957 her British Wild Flowers widened her public still further. Another collaboration with her husband, Sketching and Painting Indoors, was published in the same year. A joint exhibition followed, which went on to enjoy notable success in the United States.
As the years passed Edith continued painting, even when in pain. Visitors to the ever-active Hilders' household in Blackheath, south-east London, were treated to glimpses of her work in progress, large free spaces that glowed with colour, and with life.
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