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Ellis Silas

British 1885-1972

Ellis Silas was born on 13 July 1885 in London, son of Louis Ferdinand Silas, artist and designer. He worked in his father's studio and studied under the well-known artist Walter Sickert. Silas's main interest became marine art and his early works depicted English coastal towns. In 1907 Silas migrated to Australia.

When war was declared in 1914 Silas joined the Australian Imperial Force and continued sketching and painting whenever he was able. On the evening of 25 April 1915 his unit landed at Gallipoli. Silas served with distinction and recorded his experiences in a detailed diary and sketchbook. His book, Crusading at Anzac, was published in 1916. Silas was one of only three artists to record Australian participation at Gallipoli from first-hand experience and the only one of these to paint battle scenes.

He returned to Australia in 1921 and lived in Sydney, working as a commercial artist and contributing articles and cartoons to the Bulletin. In 1922 he travelled to the Trobriand Islands to paint. His book, A Primitive Arcadia, based on his Trobriand years, was published in 1926.

In 1925 Silas returned to England and continued to work as a marine artist. A large work depicting the First Dutch War, 'The Price of Glory', which he had begun in Perth before enlisting, caused a minor sensation at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1934. Silas also illustrated books, designed posters and was commissioned by shipping companies to execute works to hang in their ocean liners.