Clifford and Rosemary Ellis

Clifford and Rosemary Ellis together founded and ran the Bath Academy of Art. Their pioneering work in education emphasised the importance of the arts for children who were not finding academic success. William Scott, Kenneth Armitage, William Turnbull, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Robyn Denny and Gillian Ayres were just some of the artists who taught at the academy two to three days a week.


Clifford Ellis attended St Martin’s School of Art and the Regent Street Polytechnic, studying illustration before taking an Art Teacher’s Diploma. He then worked for eight years at the polytechnic as a tutor – it was there he met Rosemary who was a student of sculpture and art history. After marrying in 1931, they worked together designing posters and book jackets. Their work was distinctive for its use of bright colours, bold design and images of animals and the natural environment. They designed posters for clients such as the London Passenger Transport Board, the Empire Marketing Board, the GPO and Shell Mex.


Clifford and Rosemary moved to Bath in 1936, driven by Clifford’s determination to make his teaching reflect his progressive ideas. Rosemary taught art at the Royal School for Daughters of Officers of the Army in Lansdown (now the Royal High), while Clifford became an assistant at the Technical College, and was later promoted to head of the Bath School of Art. When the school separated from the technical college in 1942, Clifford used the school to shape and match his vision of the arts as fully integrated within society, and implement a regime that side-stepped the Ministry of Education’s written exams.


Alongside their teaching roles Rosemary and Clifford continued to produce commercial work, notably for the Collins New Naturalist series which they worked on from 1944 to 1985, supplying more than 100 lithograph covers of animals and insects.


Rosemary and Clifford signed everything together with their joint monogram C&RE, their works being the product of a joint vision.