Born in Aberdeenshire, the painter Elspeth Spottiswood was a solitary child who spent much of her time drawing and painting. After World War II she attended Camberwell & Chelsea Schools of Art, only to be deeply disappointed by the narrow and stuffy curriculum. By chance she met the artist Oscar Kokoschka, who was living in London at the time, and who gave her great encouragement.

In 1949 she married the late festival founder and agriculturist-poet Michael Milburn, and they moved to Cornwall in 1961, settling in Bocaddon, Lanreath, Cornwall. Here they brought up four sons and one daughter. He died in 1993.

Elspeth's subject matter was inspired by landscape, especially that of Cornwall. Strongly influenced by the work of Giorgio Morandi, her work was primarily concerned with distilling the essence of a landscape or object, and paring it right down to the minimal components. She was great friends with Lionel MISKIN and Patrick HAYMAN.

'For me images become significant when they contribute to creating a memory world of the imagination in which experience is contained and given meaning, as in the meeting of water and sky, the pale emptiness of sky and sea, the darkness of a mining valley, the pattern of objects on a table. It is this reality I try to explore, neither the place nor the object in itself but the way in which the image made of it can have its own imaginative reality.' (Elspeth Spottiswood, 2006)

Latterly she translated works from the Italian by Dacia Maraini (Woman at War, etc.) with the late horticulturist and garden writer, Dick Kitto (d 1999).


Painting in oils, gouache, pastel and charcoal

works and access

Works incl: Boats at Mevagissey (oil on canvas), signed and dated 1950

Work by ES is in the National Collection


1959: The Woodstock Gallery, London

1967: Falmouth School of Art

1969: Sail Loft Gallery, St Ives

1970: Cider Press Gallery, Dartington, Devon

1972: Salt House Gallery, St Ives

1984: Colchester Art Centre

2005: Collins & Hastie Ltd, Summer Exhibition

2006: Rainy Day Gallery, Penzance

2006: The Hall Gallery, Sterts Centre, Upton Cross, Liskeard

2018: Omnibus Centre, London 

2018: The British Art Fair, Saatchi Gallery (exhibited by K Contemporary)

2019, 2020: The London Art Fair (exhibited by K Contemporary)


Barnes Thomas Auction catalogue (Sept 5, 2011): Boats at Mevagissey (illus)

BBC The National Collection, Your Paintings (online): Mother and Child

An Essay in  Autobiography by Elspeth Spottiswood, 'The Painter & Sculptor' magazine, 1962