Arthur John Elsley was one of the most popular English artists who depicted scenes of children with their pets in playful settings in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. His works were so popular during his lifetime that much of his art was reproduced as prints and posters, and was often used in calendars, advertisements, books and magazines. During his career, Elsley exhibited 52 works at the Royal Academy from 1878 until 1927, and many more at other major exhibition halls throughout England.
Arthur John Elsley was born on November 20, 1860 in London, England. The earliest surviving drawing of Elsley was made when he was eleven years old. It was a pencil sketch of a cairn terrier named Vic. Other works included pencil sketches of a chimpanzee, a giraffe, and an arctic wolf, which he made when he visited the Zoological Gardens in Regents Park in 1874. Around the age of 14, he contracted measles, which caused permanent damage to his eyesight. His first Royal Academy exhibit was in 1878, a work entitled A Portrait of An Old Pony. He then began to earn his living from art, prints and posters of children, horses, and dogs.
Elsley was well acquainted with other British artists such as Solomon Joseph Solomon and George Grenville Manton, with whom he began sharing a studio in 1876. In 1892, his painting entitled Iíse Biggest was reproduced as a print, and it became so popular it had to be re-engraved. In 1894, when the well known artist Charles Burton Barber died, Arthur John Elsley succeeded him as the foremost exponent of art, prints and posters depicting children and pets. During the period of the First World War, he worked part-time at a munitions factory, and he only painted four works from 1915 to 1917. His eyesight continued to fail, and by 1931 it became so poor that he confined his activities to woodwork, metalwork and gardening. Elsley died at his home at the age of 91.