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brief biography
Source: Emily's personal records

Born 15 May 1903 to Elizabeth Sartain at her grandmother’s home, Rose Cottage in Goring Heath, Oxfordshire, England. Her parents actually lived in Reading, Berkshire. Her father, Edwin was of Huguenot descent. He was a skilled baker. Edwin was related to Chevalier John Sartain (1808-1897), a famous engraver and publisher in Philadelphia, PA., USA. John also had a daughter by the name of Emily (1841-1927). This USA Emily was also an artist specializing in people portraits and landscapes.

The British born Emily started painting when she was six years of age. She possessed a natural inherited talent as an artist. She was trained in embroidery and needlework, at which she excelled. Emily rose to a supervisory position of 26 women in an exclusive millinery shop. After recovering from a nervous breakdown she resumed painting as a freelance artist. She worked on assignment with the Royal Horticultural Society preparing botanical art.

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She had access to the world famous Lindley Library where she studied the works of famous artists including Botticelli, Redoubté, Albrecht Dűrer, Audubon, and Parkinson. She chose to specialize in flower portraits in a botanical style, although she occasionally painted animals and fantasy landscapes. Her early paintings sold immediately.

In 1931, she decided to become a professional artist. She applied to enter her fourth painting for the first time in a show organized by the Society of Women Artists, London. A total of 600 entries had been accepted by the society. Queen Mary, the Royal Patron of the society, purchased Emily’s painting. This royal recognition launched her into the big times at an early age. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1932. The Fellowship gave her entry to special information not available to other artists. Nobility and leading personages began to purchase her art. She also received commercial commissions, including several from P&O Steamship Line.

Emily decided in May 1939 to visit Winifred Forbes, her sister, who lived in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Emily marveled at all the wild flowers growing in Canada. She was scheduled to leave in mid September to return to England. World War II broke out before she could leave. Emily was forced to stay in Canada. When the war ended, Emily decided to stay in Canada and become a Canadian citizen. In 1948, Emily’s artistic skill was recognized by Paul Duval, a noted Canadian art critic, as the “Audubon of the Flowers”.

During November 1951, Emily decided to return to England to complete a pre-war commission. Her art was in such great demand that she stayed almost six years. See Awards and Achievements. She returned to Canada in 1956, stopping off in Bermuda where she met with socialites. One of the ship’s crew members presented her with a bouquet of Bermudan flowers, which she subsequently painted while aboard. She visited her sister Winifred, who had moved to Cloverdale, Surrey, B. C. before returning to Victoria. She lived in Victoria until her death from natural causes on July 18, 1990.

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Emily was asked by Dr. Carl, the curator of the Royal B. C. Museum to join with them to help preserve the Thetis Park Nature Sanctuary. Emily became the membership chairperson. She single handedly increased the membership from the 15 core members to 750 members, before passing on the torch to another person. She worked diligently to preserve the many unique wildflowers growing on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in Canada. She was the ultimate conservationist for Canadian wildflowers.

Her fame at home and internationally increased. Her paintings were purchased by the British Columbia government and others to be offered as gifts to royalty and other VIP’s. The list of purchasers include the movers and shakers of British Columbia. Coutts Hallmark commissioned Emily to paint the official flower for each province as part of the 1968 National Centennial Celebration. Coutts Hallmark then presented the art work to each of the Provincial Premiers. When presenting the painting to the Government of Canada, her work was described as the very best of Canadian art.