Eileen Mayo

Dame Eileen Rosemary Mayo DBE (11 September 1906 – 4 January 1994) was an English-born artist and designer who worked in England, Australia and New Zealand in almost every available medium — drawings, woodcuts, lithographs on stone and tempera, tapestry and silk screening. In addition to being a printmaker, illustrator, calligrapher and muralist, she designed coins, stamps, tapestry and posters, and wrote and illustrated eight books on natural science.

Life in EnglandEdit

She was born in Norwich and educated in Yorkshire and the Clifton High School, Bristol. She had a thorough grounding in art, studying at the Slade School in London, the Central School of Arts and Crafts and under Henry Moore at the Chelsea Polytechnic.

In 1927 she was instructed in lino-cutting by Claude Flight over the telephone. Her resulting print was called "Turkish Bath", which was included in the Redfern Gallery's 'First Exhibition of British Linocuts'. The picture was subsequently bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1940 she moved to Paris to study with Fernand Léger at the Académie Montmartre.[1]

She held teaching positions at Saint Martin's School of Art and Sir John Cass College in London. She became a member of the Society of Wood Engravers, and wrote and illustrated a series of books. She also exhibited at the Royal Academy and with the Royal Society of British Artists.[1] For a time she worked as an artists' model, for Bernard Meninsky, Duncan Grant, Dod Procter and particularly Laura Knight.


In 1936 she married Dr Richard Gainsborough, who founded Art News & Reviews; she designed the first issue when it appeared in 1949.[2] The marriage ended in 1952.

Life in AustraliaEdit

Mayo emigrated to Australia in 1952 after separating from her husband and became one of the many migrants who contributed to the postwar print revival. She taught at the National Art School in Sydney and was a member of Sydney Printmakers. Her career in Australia included working on murals and designing tapestries and posters.[1]

Stamp design in AustraliaEdit

One shilling platypus stamp designed by Eileen Mayo

As part of the Australian Commonwealth series of six postage stamps issued between 1959 and 1962 she designed the platypus for the one-shilling stamp and was awarded the Vizard-Wholohan Prize for prints in 1962.[1] Other stamps in the series feature the kangaroo, banded anteater, tiger cat, rabbit bandicoot and the Tasmanian tiger (now believed extinct). This stamp series is significant as it was one of the earliest attempts at putting Australian flora and fauna on stamps. In addition it was one of the first times that a designer further commercialised their designs by producing poster versions of the stamp artwork and made them available for sale.[citation needed] This series, the first to be designed by a woman,[3] were for the Postmaster-General's Department now called Australia Post. Mayo produced many stamp and poster designs depicting the flora and fauna of Australia.

Life in New ZealandEdit

In 1962, she moved to Waimate, New Zealand, where her mother and sister had lived since 1921. By 1965 Mayo had moved to Christchurch, where she taught at the University of Canterbury (SFA) until 1972. For more than three years she also worked on an underwater diorama with Otago Museum. A founding member of Sydney Printmakers, she was on the Print Council of New Zealand. Apart from a period in Dunedin from 1972 to 1975, she remained in Christchurch until her death. Her last works were silkscreen prints, which she found the easiest medium to use with decreasing mobility, insisting, as always, that they be sold at affordable prices.

Stamp design in New ZealandEdit

Mayo continued to design stamps in New Zealand, such as the 1969 Cook Bicentenary and 1971 Antarctic Treaty, and UNICEF commemoratives[3] and six stamps of the 1970 moths and fish definitive series[4] for the New Zealand Post Office.

Studied at institutionsEdit

Lectured at institutionsEdit

Work at public collections in New ZealandEdit

Book illustrationsEdit

Written and Illustrated by Eileen Mayo

  • The Story Of Living Things and Their Evolution
  • Nature's ABC
  • Little Animals of the Countryside
  • Larger Animals of the Countryside
  • Animals on the Farm
  • Shells and How They Live
  • Serge Lifar: Sixteen Drawings in Black and White
  • The Story of Living Things and their Evolution

Illustrated by Eileen Mayo

  • First French Course for Seniors
  • Some Scottish Dances
  • Best Cat Stories
  • A Primer of Classical Ballet (Cecchetti Method) for Children
  • A Second Primer of Classical Ballet (Cecchetti Method) for Children
  • One Day on Beetle Rock
  • Rational Limbering
  • The Story of the World
  • The Children's Circus Book
  • Japanese Garland
  • Toys
  • The Poems of Amriolkais (Sir Williams Jones, translator)

List of worksEdit


Mayo was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to art, in the 1994 New Year Honours,[5] one week before her death at the age of 87.


  1. ^ a b c d "The Artists: Eileen Mayo (1906-1994)". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  2. ^ Gainsborough, John (5 January 1994). "Obituary: Dame Eileen Mayo". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 November 2009.
  3. ^ a b Breckon, Richard (February 2006). "Australia's Decimal Currency Stamps 1966". Stanley Gibbons Monthly. Archived from the original on 24 June 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  4. ^ "1970 Low Value Definitive Stamps Issue featured butterflies, moths and fish". New Zealand Post Office. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  5. ^ "No. 53528". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 31 December 1993. p. 33.

External linksEdit