Featured Artist, March & April:
Ray Ellis (1921-2013)
Born in Philadelphia on April 24, 1921, the late painter Raymond George Ellis grew up on Lismore Avenue in Glenside, PA.
He began painting as a child and spent his life celebrating each day — both on canvas and in the world he shared with Theodora (Teddie) Axtell, his wife of 28 years.
A nationally recognized artist whose paintings are in the permanent collection at The White House and museums around the country, Ellis sought out, and saw beauty in everything he viewed. He was an unwavering optimist and a romantic who imagined the best possible reality and then stepped inside, lived it, and captured it on canvas.
Ellis attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, and in 1947 at the age of 26 had his first one-man show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
He was elected to the American Watercolor Society and in 1968 to the Salmagundi Club in New York, the oldest established professional art association in the country. Other New York memberships included The Century Association, the Artists’ Fellowship, and The Lotos Club.
Ellis pursued watercolor painting while working in advertising to support his family, eventually founding his own advertising agency with offices in New Jersey and New York. But from 1969 on, he worked exclusively as an artist.
Ellis felt his life became truly charmed during the 1980s when he and Teddie built their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, eventually making it their year-round residence. Throughout that decade, Ellis and the late TV journalist Walter Cronkite collaborated on three books depicting America’s coastlines in words and images: South by Southeast, North by Northeast, and Westwind. There are 15 other books exclusively devoted to Ellis’ paintings.
In 1986, he founded Compass Prints and The Ray Ellis Gallery in Savannah, Georgia. His work is also displayed at the North Water Gallery in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, and The Cheryl Newby Gallery, Pawleys Island, SC.
For three consecutive years beginning in 1998, Ellis was commissioned by President and Mrs. Clinton to paint scenes of the White House to be reproduced as their official holiday greeting card.
His works have been exhibited in United States embassies around the world and are in the permanent collection of the White House as well as in museums around the country. In 2004, the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, GA created a major traveling exhibition of his paintings. He was awarded the Salmagundi Club’s Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts in 2004.
Ellis raised more than $1 million for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust over two decades. For 25 years, he was commissioned by the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby to paint yearly Vineyard fishing scenes from which commemorative limited edition prints were made to benefit the Derby Scholarship Fund.
He also donated prints for auction to numerous charities on the Island and in Savannah. In an effort to support young artists who aspire to duplicate his own path as a full-time artist, he established the Ray Ellis Foundation, which provides funds for those wanting to pursue careers in the visual arts.
Ray Ellis passed away at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital on October 4, 2013 of complications from a stroke at age 92. The Ray Ellis gallery still exists today in Edgartown, MA in his honor.
To view Ellis’ work, visit our online gallery.
His exhibit runs through April 30, and his paintings are available for acquisition. All are welcome, and admission is free.
Geary Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and is located at 576 Boston Post Road, Darien, CT 06820. For more information, call (203) 655-6633.