Elena (Leni) Mifsud was born on 17th December 1906, and died on 7th January 1989. She was a self-taught Impressionist painter, inspired by Monet and Cezanne. Her Impressionist style was born by accident: after an argument with her sister, she forgot to mix her paint with turpentine or oil and applied straight from the tube. Liking the result, she continued to paint like this for the rest of her career. Leni used oils, watercolours and pastels in her work. She also worked with wood (carving), printing (wood blocks) and leather.
From an early age, Leni demonstrated an artistic flair and a commitment to art, which her father did not support. This did not deter her, and she began using window panes as canvases and would wipe away paintings when she has finished, and would use spare pieces of glass or timber that she found as canvases.
Leni studied sculpture and arts in the Colegio de Bellas Artes in Madrid in the early 1930s. Leni’s father only paid her railway fare to Madrid, so in order to fund her studies, she sold her car and began to sell postcards and frames and a few commissions. She was also awarded a Spanish scholarship which also helped to fund her studies. She received rigid training in technique during her time at the Colegio, which she later adopted in her teaching methods in later life.
Her father died in 1936, and Leni returned to Gibraltar. Now, she could fully demonstrate the rebellious and eccentric nature that she was known for: she cropped her hair, wore trousers and started smoking cigarettes.
Leni was evacuated to Madeira in 1940, where she continued to paint. She held an exhibition in Funchal in 1942, and carried out work for the Church in the form of paintings of the Virgin Mary. Upon returning from Madeira, Leni continued to work at her studio in Horse Barrack Lane. She also began to give art lessons at the Calpe Institute at Main Street. She also carried out restoration work, most notably the Royal Arms above the Supreme Court.
Leni held a number of exhibitions at the Exchange and Commerce Library, the Arts Centre and even her own home. Leni also branched out to galleries in Spain (Cordoba, Alicante, Valenica, Almeria). She was awarded the Governor’s Certificate and Badge of Honour in 1976, and one of the buildings in Edinburgh Estate was named after her in 2005 in recognition of her services to art in Gibraltar. Additionally, at the annual Gibraltar International Art Exhibition, the third prize of £1,500 is named after Leni Mifsud.
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