Isabel Alexander: Artist and Illustrator – Exhibition

Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, 14 January to 4 June 2017 Admission FREE

Isabel Alexander (1910-1996), artist and illustrator, has been described by admirers as ‘the English Georgia O’Keeffe.’ The first major exhibition of work by this overlooked artist, who adopted Yorkshire as her home, will open at the Mercer Art Gallery on 14 January and run until 4 June 2017.

Alexander trained at the Slade School of Art, London. She travelled widely in Europe and lived for the last 20 years of her life in Yorkshire, where her work attracted a strong following. 

Jane Sellars, Curator of Cultural Services for Harrogate said, ‘Isabel Alexander was an artist of many talents. She has rightly been described by admirers as ‘the English Georgia O’Keeffe’ for her sinuous illustrations of plant life.  In common with many outstanding women artists of her generation she trained at the Slade School of Art in London in the 1930s.  Unusually among women of her day, she worked as an art director on documentary, information and educational films in the 1940s and 1950s. Isabel had an extraordinarily diverse career as an illustrator and artist, much of it enhanced by her great love of the British landscape and the natural world, as well as a great empathy for the disadvantaged. We are delighted to be able host this first major Yorkshire retrospective of Isabel’s life’s work.’ 

A single mother in the 1940s, Alexander initially forged a career as an illustrator working on a broad range of subjects including botany, coal mining and children’s books, managing to retain her artistic integrity in spite of poverty as a single parent. During this period Alexander visited Rhondda, South Wales where her strong drawings and lithographs record conditions amongst the mining community in wartime Britain. On a personal level Isabel found an outlet in drawing that yielded exceptional results, and these powerful and spellbinding portraits and landscapes are a poignant comment on society.

From the early 1950s she turned from illustration to painting, producing portraits, landscapes, abstract works and finally a haunting series of Hebridean seascapes. For this major show works have been selected from an impressive archive of a lifetime of art along with pieces on loan from other private collections.

Isabel Alexander worked as an artist for over 60 years. An obsessive daily commitment to drawing, which she maintained for most of her life, underpinned her ability to move seamlessly from one art form to another. This impressive Mercer Art Gallery exhibition of over 50 prints, paintings and drawings reveals the lifetime in art of an artist who deserves greater recognition. 

A book by Janet McKenzie about Isabel Alexander’s life and work has been published to accompany the exhibition, on sale in the Gallery Shop at the special exhibition price of £15. The artist’s son Robin Alexander will be talking to Jane Sellars at an ‘In Conversation’ event at the Mercer Art Gallery on Mon 30 January 2pm, tickets £6 please book in advance. 

ISABEL ALEXANDER: Artist and Illustrator is at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, from 14 January to 4 June 2017. Admission is free. Visit and to book tickets for the ‘In Conversation’ event call 01423 556188 or email 

Courtesy of Jane Redfern 07724 131179, email

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