Friday, 2 April 2010


Ezra ‘Elmer’ Keene was born in 1853 in Nottinghamshire to a Quaker family. During the 1870s he switched from being a miller and baker to being an artist and photographer. Elmer married a Yorkshire girl Eliza Darlow and they had 11 children, four of whom became artists. The family moved to Leicester in 1901; Elmer died there in 1929.

He was known for producing card-friendly images in coastal and rural places, often moonlight scenes. The Rhyl postcards above seem typical of his work. The Foryd Harbour card is undated; the next one, Pavilion and Sands seems exquisite and was posted September 1918 in Kinmel Park Camp near Bodelwyddan from Maggie (a nurse?) to folks back home in County Down.

By direct comparison the final picture, Rhyl, Rough Sea, is rather disappointing. The storm is depicted convincingly but the Pavilion dome is misshapen. There may be compositional reasons for this. Artists will know, artists will tell me.

SUN 4th APR 2010 UPDATE: Rhyl artist Judith Samuel says,
“The last picture could only have been made from a sketch from the end of the pier and, if it was so windy, he couldn't have been doing anything very detailed. The stormy sea is brilliant, and waves are very hard to do convincingly. Perhaps when he got it home, he decided it needed something in the middle to anchor the picture to, and he did the Pavilion from memory or from very rough sketches. Did they really have so many gannets off Rhyl? You see the odd one now, but not that many! The picture of the harbour is interesting for historical reasons; the current flood defence works are likely to sweep away yet more of the historic parts of the harbour, I fear.”

WED 20th JAN 2016 UPDATE: Here is an Elmer Keene card postmarked 1930 - an attractive piece of work but, once again the dome doesn't seem quite right!