Ethel Leontine Gabain (1883 - 1950)

Captain Pauline Gower of the Womens Air Transport Auxiliary, circa 1940

SKU: 7607

Lithographic print from the series Women’s Work in the War (Other than the Services), published by The Ministry of Information: His Majesty’s Stationery Office
14 7/8 x 19 3/4 in. (37.8 x 50.2 cm.)
Reference: Wright supplement 314

Height – 37.8cm
Width – 50.2cm


Collection of Stuart Southall

Ethel Gabain was commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee

to produce four lithographs of Women’s Voluntary Services members

and four on the subject of child evacuees. Six appeared in Women’s Work

in the War (other than the Services). This portfolio was issued in 1941 by

His Majesty’s Stationery Office and published under the auspices of the

Ministry of Information.

Although she was herself in delicate health, Gabain travelled

widely to source her images and the scenes portrayed are notable for

the robustness and industry of the women depicted. Often the figures

are rather androgynous – perhaps to reinforce the notion that a wide

range of activities could equally be undertaken by either sex – with only

headscarves suggesting that it is women who are involved.

In contrast to her later work, which often depended for its success

on the subtle use of light and shade, these WWII images are immensely

strong on detail and Gabain exhibits both a superb draughtsmanship and

full command of the lithographic printing process.

Whilst all six images are of the highest quality, the portrait of

Captain Pauline Gower of the Women’s Auxiliary Transport (WAT)

serves as a cogent reminder of the heroism of this extraordinary group

of female pilots who delivered Lancaster bombers singlehandedly, whilst

also flying Hurricanes and Spitfires between air bases. We were all

reminded of this exceptional endeavour when Mary Ellis of the WAT

died in July 2018 at the age of 101.

Commentary by Stuart Southall, actuary and print collector. He has a collection of over 4,000 works on paper and is a regular lender to exhibitions.

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Ethel Leontine Gabain
Ethel Leontine
1883 - 1950

Ethel Gabain was born in France but received her formal art
education in London ‘ at the Slade School of Fine Art (1902) and
the Central School of Arts and Crafts (1904’06) ‘ as well as Paris

In 1908 she co-founded with John Copley (1875’1950) and
A.S. Hartrick (1864’1950) the Senefelder Club, which sought to
promote the art of lithography. The sale of her prints provided her
with a working income. She married John Copley in 1913. In 1926,
she provided illustrations for Anthony Trollope’s The Warden. 

She exhibited throughout her career, including at the RA, the
NEAC, and the SWA, and her oil painting Flora Robson as Lady
was awarded the De Laszlo Silver Medal by the RBA in

Gabain was employed by the WAAC during WWII to produce
lithographs of Women’s Voluntary Services members. Despite
deteriorating health, she travelled across Britain to record women’s
invaluable contributions to traditionally masculine industries.


Ethel Leontine Gabain (1883 - 1950)
London Schoolgirls at Finnemore Wood – Camp Children in Wartime, 1940
Ethel Leontine Gabain (1883 - 1950)
Captain Pauline Gower of the Womens Air Transport Auxiliary, circa 1940