Open main menu

Elizabeth Ayers (née Fitzgerald; 19 September 1915 – 10 November 2017), known as Duffy Ayers, was an English portrait painter. She was one of a pair of identical twin girls born to her American mother and Irish father, and has been known for most of her life by the nickname "Duffy".[1]

She trained at the Central School of Art in London, and later married the painter and printmaker Michael Rothenstein RA, son of Sir William Rothenstein. In 1941 the couple moved to Chapel Cottage in the Essex village of Great Bardfield, and relocated the next year to Ethel House in the centre of the village. Duffy and Michael were important members of the famous art community resident in the north Essex village during the post-war period. At Great Bardfield she was mainly known as Duffy Rothenstein, although she still painted under the name Betty Fitzgerald. The Rothensteins, along with other village artists, organised a series of large open-house exhibitions that garnered much press attention during the 1950s. During this time Duffy painted mostly portraits, and exhibited some of her work at the 1955 Great Bardfield Artists’ summer exhibition.

By the end of 1955 her marriage to Michael Rothenstein had dissolved, and she left Great Bardfield. She settled in Bloomsbury, London, and married the graphic artist, Eric Ayers (1921 - 2001). After her second marriage she painted under the name of Duffy Ayers, and regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy. One of her oil portraits, "The Arrival" (1993) is in the North West Essex collection of the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden.

Ayers latterly lived in London, and had two children from her first marriage; Julian Rothenstein, owner of Redstone Press, and Anne Rothenstein, artist and wife of film-director Stephen Frears. She turned 100 in September 2015[1] and died in November 2017 at the age of 102.[2]


  1. ^ a b "In a treasure house of artworks, a brush with Betty 'Duffy' Ayers". Camden New Journal. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  2. ^ Duffy Ayers obituary
  • Martin Salisbury, Artists of the Fry: Art and Design in the North West Essex Collection, Cambridge: Ruskin Press, 2003.
  • "Artists of Great Bardfield", Hearts and Essex Observer, 15 July 1955.