Thursday, September 13, 2018


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bertram Elliott

Bertram Robinson Elliott was born on September 8, 1889 in Tokyo, Japan, according to his United States Petition for Naturalization, at, which he filed July 15, 1918. His parents were Canadian. It’s not known when he returned to Canada. Elliot was counted in the 1901 Canada census. He resided in Brandon, Manitoba.

Elliott’s artistic achievement was reported in The Victoria Daily Colonist (British Columbia, Canada), April 27, 1906, on page five, column five.

Won Royal Prize.—Bertram Elliott, who is studying with Miss L.M. Mills, of this city, has been successful in gaining the highest award from the Royal Drawing society. Miss Mills was so pleased with the boy’s work that she sent samples to the exhibition of the Royal Drawing Society, Caxton Hall, London, England. Two thousand seven hundred sheets of drawings were sent from various parts of the British Empire and out of this competition Bertram Elliott’s worked gained the highest prize, viz., H.R.H. Princess Louise prize. Had this boy been in England he would have had the honor of receiving his reward from the hands of H.R.H. herself.
Elliott’s award was also reported in The Journal of Education, May 1906.

The Victoria Daily Colonist, November 2, 1907, covered the graduation at Victoria High School. Elliott graduated in the Arts with an average percent of “73 2-3”.

According to Elliott’s petition, he sailed on September 1, 1910 from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle, Washington. Elliott attended the University of Washington and was in the class of 1914. He was on The Tyee yearbook art staff in 1912 and 1914; the 1913 yearbook was not available for viewing but he was probably on the art staff, too. Elliott was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the Biological Club.

After graduating, Elliott returned to Canada for a brief time. A border crossing manifest, dated June 1914, said Elliott was an Irish Canadian commercial artist. His father was W.E. Elliott who lived in Cumberland, B.C. Elliott returned to the United States through Blaine, Washington on his way to the Seattle-based Electric Engraving Company.

Elliott signed his World War I draft card on June 5, 1917. He was a self-employed commercial artist residing in Chicago, Illinois at 109 West Huron Street. His description was medium height and build with blue eyes and light-colored hair.

When Elliott filed his petition he was in the army at Camp Walter R. Taliaferro, San Diego, California. The date of his discharge is not known. Elliott returned to Chicago.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census said Elliott lived at 245 North Avenue in Chicago and operated a commercial art studio. Elliott also pursued fine art.

The Arts, January 1922, reviewed the Arts Club annual exhibition in January and said “…There was a crayon sketch of Ben Hecht by Bert R. Elliott, a lively cartoon with strong linear balance, conveying an impression of Chicago’s latest literary limelight in a character of sardonic humor that undoubtedly was satisfactory to the sitter….” The same issue reviewed the “Twenty-sixth Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity” and opined, “There is good drawing in Bert Elliott's ‘River, Road, and Tower’ though one feels that his interest in the sky has made him neglect the tower a bit.” The Chicago American, February 4, 1922, mentioned the same drawing and identified the tower as the Wrigley Building.

The Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, December 1923, said Elliott joined its school faculty.

Writer Ben Hecht included Elliott in A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago (1922).

In the mid-1920s Elliott moved to New York City.

The New York Times, December 29, 1925, published an advertisement for the Master Institute of United Arts which included Elliott’s class in illustration and poster design.

Editor & Publisher and The Fourth Estate, January 28, 1928, published a McClure Syndicate advertisement that included Elliott’s Animal Ways and Wonders, a “daily strip telling drama of animals; authentic, fascinating, curious”. It’s not known if any newspaper published the strip. 

No evidence has yet been found that "Animal Ways and Wonders" was successfully syndicated.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Elliott and John Hix were the artists on the series, O. Henry’s Short Stories, which was distributed by McClure. The series ran from June 11 to July 29, 1928. Elliott drew these adaptations: “Iky’s Love Philtre”; “Springtime a la Carte”; “The Ransom of Mack”; “Sisters of the Golden Circle”; “Service of Love”; “Lost on Dress Parade”; “Buried Treasure”; and “Makes the Whole World Kin”.

The 1930 census recorded self-employed artist Elliott and his Japanese English wife, Sumi, in Manhattan at 202 East 43 Street. They married around 1926 and were naturalized citizens.

Elliott passed away in 1931 according to his grandniece, Dianne MacLeod. Elliot’s life was noted in an issue of AB Bookman’s Weekly which published an article about the My Book House series.

Bertram Elliott, who contributed by far the most drawings to volumes I and II was born in 1889 in Tokyo, the son of a minister. He attended commercial art schools in Victoria, B.C., Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago’s evening division sporadically from 1917 to 1920. A 1931 issue of an art publication noted: “Bert Elliott, well-known member of the liberal group of Chicago artists ten years ago, died recently in New York.”

The American Art Annual (1931) had this obituary: “Elliott, Bert.—A painter, died in New York in the summer of 1931. His early life was spent in Japan, but for many years he was affiliated with the No Jury group of artists in Chicago. One of his works is in the Art institute of Chicago.”

Further Viewing
Art Institute of Chicago
Two drawings: “Portrait of a Man” and “An Eminent Journalist”

—Alex Jay


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