Olive Snell

Olive Constance Snell (3 April 1888[1] – 23 May 1962)[2] was an English artist, known for her portraiture.2[3]

Olive Snell
BornOlive Constance Snell Edit this on Wikidata
3 April 1888 Edit this on Wikidata
Died23 May 1962 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 74)
OccupationPainter Edit this on Wikidata
ChildrenHelena Christian Pike, Penelope Pike Edit this on Wikidata

Snell was born in the Colony of Natal, South Africa, the daughter of Constance Louisa and Edward Snell of Monkokehampton, Devon, England.[4] She arrivied in England in 1912, already a competent painter.[5]

In the 1920s, she painted portraits for the front covers of several issues of The Sketch,[6][7][8] and The Bystander,[9] working mainly in crayon & watercolour.[9] During this period, she made two visits to the United States, making use of introductions made by Sir Joseph Duveen at the behest of Oswald Birley.[5] Her subjects included American celebrities such as Tallulah Bankhead and Amelia Earhart, and their British equivalents, such as Madeleine Carroll and Cathleen Nesbitt.[6] Her portrait of Agatha Christie was used on the cover of Agatha Christie: An Autobiography.

Watercolours of pilots by Olive Snell

During World War II, she turned to military subjects, including Battle of Britain pilots,[6] as an official war artist attached to the Royal Air Force.[5] Her 1943 painting of pilots of 610 Squadron at RAF Westhampnett is now in the Goodwood collection on the same site.[6] Four of the eighteen pilots depicted were killed within months of its completion.[6] The War Artists' Advisory Committee issued her with a permit to sketch in public during wartime.[6]

She married Ebenezer John Lecky Pike, CBE, MC (1884-1965), an officer (later a colonel) in the Grenadier Guards, on 16 April 1913.[4][6] They had four children, the youngest of whom, David Ebenezer (born 9 June 1925), a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards, was killed in action on 5 March 1945[4] and is buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.[10][11] Their eldest child, Helena Christian, married Lionel Brett, 4th Viscount Esher. The middle daughter Katherine Mary Penelope married Lawrence Dundas, 3rd Marquess of Zetland. A third daughter, Jane Rosemary (1923-1934), died in childhood.[4]

She exhibited at the Fine Art Society, Grosvenor Gallery, New English Art Club, Royal Institute of Oil Painters and the Society of Women Artists.[9] Her works are in public collections, including the Imperial War Museums and Royal Air Force Museum.[3]

Her portrait was painted in 1922 by Oswald Birley.[12] As of 2017, the picture was in private ownership.[5] Birley subsequently painted Ebenezer Pike, and later married Pike's sister, Rhoda, after painting her also.[12] Another portrait was painted circa 1927 by Augustus John.[9] This work was sold by Boningtons in June 2018.[9] The Illustrated London News noted in 1927, that Snell "was lucky enough to have some lessons from that celebrated artist Augustus John, who was interested in her work".[9]


  1. ^ 1939 England and Wales Register
  2. ^ England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858–1995
  3. ^ a b "Snell, Olive Constance, c.1888–1962". ArtUK. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Ebenezer (5) John Lecky Pike of Dale Park, Sussex b.29 February 1884". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Black, Jonathan; et al. (2007). Power & Beauty: The Art of Sir Oswald Birley (PDF). Philip Mould & Company. pp. 76–77.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Goodwood - Flying Colours". Goodwood. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  7. ^ "Sketch cover - the Marchesa Malacrida". Mary Evans Prints Online. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  8. ^ "[cover]". The Sketch. Vol. CXLVIII no. 1923. 4 December 1929. p. 1.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Fine Art & Antiques". Boningtons. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Lieutenant PIKE, DAVID EBENEZER". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Kleef (D) - Reichswald Forest War Cemetery - - graf 856431". Online Begraafplaatsen (in Dutch). Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  12. ^ a b Black, Jonathan (2007). The Life and Works of Sir Oswald Birley MC (PDF). Philip Mould & Company.