Born in London, the artist was the son of an artist and designer, and his mother an opera singer. He trained in art with his father and under the tutelage of Walter SICKERT, finding a main interest in marine art.
He toured English coastal towns before sailing to Australia in 1907, the tour probably being the occasion for his first visit to West Cornwall. Returning to settle permanently in Britain in 1925, the interim had been taken up with painting in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. In 1914 he joined the Australian Imperial Force as a signaller, trained in Egypt, and saw service at Gallipoli.
Shell-shock meant that he was returned to Egypt and then to convalesce in England. He kept a diary and sketchbook all through the experience which was published in 1916 as Crusading at Anzac AD 1915 and portrayed war as the soldier sees it, 'shorn of all its pomp and circumstance.' Throughout he worked to record the Australian participation at Gallipoli in paintings and three of these were bought for the Australian War Memorial Collection. In 1921 he returned to Australia, living in Sydney, working as a commercial artist.
In 1922 he painted in the Trobriand Islands, New Guinea, and then returned permanently to Britain. Silas married Ethel Florence Detheridge in 1927. His most widely known local work is a depiction of the Royal Navy Algerine-class minesweeper, HMS Wave Ashore at St Ives 1952, that broke her moorings at St Ives in a storm during the early hours of 30 September 1952, and kept at the National Maritime Museum, London.
Painter of marine and coastal subjects, journalist, caricaturist
works and access
Works include: Crusading at Anzac AD 1915 (publication 1916); HMS Wave Ashore at St Ives 1952 (1952); Polperro Harbour
Access to Work: National Maritime Museum, London
Arlington; G; I; RA; RI; ROI
Buckman Artists in Britain since 1945
Ellis Silas-Biography: www.anzacsite.gov.au
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p345)
Johnson & Greutzner
Tovey, David (2021) Polperro - Cornwall's Forgotten Art Centre - Volume Two - Post-1920, Wilson Books