Leicester Chronicler

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Elma Ezra Keene 1953-1929


Eastbourne by Elmer Keene

The landscape artist Ezra 'Elmer' Keene was born in Osberton near Worksop in Nottinghamshire on 25 January 1853. He was born to a Quaker family, the son of Stephen Keene, a miller from Melksham in Wiltshire, and his wife Elizabeth whose family came from Ireland. They had married in 1845.  It is said that Stephen Keene was also an artist but was unable to sustain a living from his gift.   

Elmer was the fourth of nine children born to Stephen and Elizabeth Keene. The child born immediately before Elmer, and the three children born immediately after Elmer all died young.  In the 1871 UK census Elmer, known as Ezra, was age 18 and a miller and baker. By the 1881 census his occupation was given as Photographic Artist.



Elmer Keene married Eliza Elizabeth Darlow on 14 November 1880 in Scarborough Parish Church.  In the census of 1881, Elmer and Eliza are recorded as being with Elmer's parents at 21 Rothbury Street, Falsgrave, Scarborough, but by 1885 they had moved to 33 Rothbury Street. His father died in that year.  Elmer's brother Caleb was present at his death.

By 1901, the family had moved to Leicester where he worked as an artist until about 1914. He sometimes used the pseudonym of Paul Haworth. 

Conway by Elmer Keene


Keene painted a variety of landscapes including many marine subjects although he lived in the English county furthest from the sea.  He was able to earn a living by painting for his many local patrons, so rarely exhibited, but in 1895 he did exhibit one painting at the Royal Academy, a view of Burneston Bay in Yorkshire.


Ilfracombe by Elmer Keene He painted moonlit views of a wide variety of landscape subjects including the English lakes, including Buttermere, Coniston and Windermere, and distinctive buildings such as Holyrood Palace, Melrose Abbey and Warwick Castle, as well as more distant locations in other countries.  

His work was used by publishers including Barton & sons, E.T.W.Dennis, C.W.Faulkner, E.W.Savory, Raphael Tuck and C.Worcester.  Postcards of his work were published by over fifteen separate companies. Many prints, postcards and stereo views based on his paintings were sold in Europe and the United States.



Elmer and Eliza had eleven children of whom five died before reaching the age of three years.  The children who survived were Percy who died in the 1st World War, Frank, Mabel (who died in 1906 aged twenty two years), Minnie, Marjorie and Dorothy.  Frank, Minnie, Marjorie and Dorothy were all artists, with postcards published like their father. 

Percy Elmer and Marjorie Elizabeth were twins. Percy died on 11 January 1917 while serving as a driver in the Army Service Corp. He is commemorated at Gilroes Cemetery in Leicester.



painting by Doroyh Keene

Marjorie's artistic work was published by Crest Publishing. Frank's postcards were published by Gale & Polden.  Younger daughter, Dorothy drew pastel portraiture, and some of her work was also published as postcards.

Elmer's daughter Minnie was also an artist and specialised in pastels of animals.  Some of her work was issued by the distinguished Leicester textile company Wolsey. 


Dorothy Keene



Painting by Minnie Keene Llanberis by Elmer Keene Painting by Frank Keene
Minnie Keene Elmer Keene Frank Keene


Elmer also had a younger brother, Caleb, who was born in 1863. Caleb married Minna Bergman who became a well-known photographer, the first woman fellow in the Royal Photographic Society. Caleb designed and constructed Chinese lacquer furniture and it is said that he made a suite of furniture for the Vatican. Caleb and Minna, with their children Louis and Violet, emigrated to South Africa and later to Canada.

Elmer Keene died on 2 December 1929 at his home at 100 Uppingham Road, Leicester at the age of 78.  He and his wife were buried at Gilroes Cemetery in Leicester.