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Eli Montlake

(1923-1992), Artist

Sitter in 3 portraits

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Eli Montlake, by Ida Kar - NPG x199682

Eli Montlake

by Ida Kar
film negative, 1950s
NPG x199682

Eli Montlake, by Ida Kar - NPG x199683

Eli Montlake

by Ida Kar
film negative, 1950s
NPG x199683

Eli Montlake, by Ida Kar - NPG x199684

Eli Montlake

by Ida Kar
film negative, 1950s
NPG x199684

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Roger Saunders

01 December 2020, 11:09

I met Eli in the late seventies through a friend Adele. The first I met him he was living in that big old house in Ibiza he had a wonderful old high back cane chair that he had covered with electric blankets to keep him warm in the winter when he was working. I will always remember meeting him one day on Salinas beach where he loved to watch the scantily dressed ladies sun bathing. I remember on that occasion he was telling us that he had bought a new padlock and chain for his moped as people were stealing mopeds, he went on to tell us that the first time he padlocked his moped with the the new lock he had forgotten to take the key out of the lock. When he got back to his moped someone had stolen the lock and left the moped.
I did visit him later when he lived in the house on the road to Santa Eulalia. I do have some of his work on my walls, the ladies on bicycles and cats.

Giles Wareham

22 October 2020, 02:51

In about 1974 I bought the line drawing of a cat which features on references to the artist. I think he spent a lot of time with Xaviera Hollander in Ibiza.

Brian Wilkinson

20 August 2020, 16:55

In the early 1970's I worked in a gallery in Hugh Street Pimlico called The French Picture Shop selling french prints from the 1900's to 1930's. One day this Elli came in to try and sell some of his pictures they were large 36"x24" more or less and were very sparse line drawings of nude women, more humerous and tittilating rather than pornographic he said each was unique and done by a process of his own devising, they weren't drawings but done by some process I still can't recall, we bought some and they proved very popular and I think we did some business for a while with him,I left the shop in '73 or 4 so no idea what happenedf after that. Some of these works ended up in London Clubs but that was in the '70's and I've never seen one since.

G.M.Hilleard

02 May 2019, 10:15

I came across a pretty destitute man in Kensington during the mid 1990's selling from under his coat, from shop to shop, sets of Montlake's 'From Morning Till Night'

JUDITH TAYLOR

15 February 2018, 17:55

I was so pleased to meet Tim and now to know that another friend met my cousin. He was extraordinarily gifted but I think had a lot of demons. One question is what happened to those amazing paintings. I know where at least one went but no one seems to know about the rest. I can only assume they are in the UK but beyond that, blankness. Thank you for adding your memories.

Steve de Laet

11 January 2018, 21:46

I met Eli only once, in 1967 (?) after being introduced by my sister, Lauren. I had a chance to visit him at his house (maybe along with Tim Pickering) and saw his amazing tempura paintings. I am fortunate to own four of his prints and I treasure them. I am happy to have found this dialogue and wanted to weigh in for what it is worth.

JUDITH M TAYLOR

30 December 2017, 20:15

Reply to Anna Shephard
I am so happy to hear from you. I assume you are related to Helen Biggar. The NPG did not alert me to your October post and I only just came across it. One of my friends in Edinburgh who is also very interested in art, read a biography of Helen but cannot remember the author. Perhaps you could tell me that.

I am happy to share my e-mail. Do you know how to do that without putting it out on l line directly?

One possibility is that you could go got my web site: www.horthistoria.com and contact me that way.

Since I began this blog I have collecting as many of Eli's works as I could find and have made them into a slide show. If you send me an e-mail I can attach that show for you.
In early March I am taking my eldest grandson, also an artist, to see Eli's grave in Ibiza.

Are you in the UK? I am in San Francisco

Happy new year

Judith

Deena

27 December 2017, 15:59

I knew Eli very well in Ibiza from 1965-1985. He was very protective of Arlene did everything for her and was devastated when she lost all that weight and strayed to be with young, gorgeous guy. In a world of drugs, sex and rock 'n roll, Eli was against all of that. He sat at the bar every night at La Tierra to make sure that no one got too boisterous. John, an English guy married town American, Judy helped Eli financially & owned some of the nude paintings. I have 5 of his silk screens.

Anna Shepherd

14 October 2017, 12:23

Eli Montlake was my uncle by marriage, but he was more like a big brother. I knew
him between 1944-1954. If Judith M Taylor could give me her email I could send some
images. He did have small rotten teeth. The reason he was turned down for
military service was he had flat feet and severe eczema in his hands.

JUDITH TAYLOR

01 August 2017, 17:05

Final closure.

Eli Montlake died in Ibiza on August 11, 1992 and is buried in the New Cemetery in Ibiza: plot 43, group U. He was 69.

Would your friend be kind enough to take a picture of the headstone for me?

So far I have not had any success finding his work in London. I am sure you are correct and that is where it would be but it is probably in private collections and thus not accessible. A London dealer donated some of his work to the British Museum. She told me she obtained them from two of his friends but both those men are now dead.

Tim Pickering

14 July 2017, 22:22

The story of Eli's teeth ties in with the disappearance of his masterpieces. Eli met a lady ( I think she was English; I never met her) who became his benefactrice. She, Eli, and the pictures went to London in the late 1970's where he got his teeth worked on. I think he might also have painted her portrait. She would be the key to the whereabouts of the paintings. I'm pretty sure he left them with her when he returned to Ibiza. There was talk of an exhibition, but I don't know if there ever was one.

JUDITH MUNDLAK TAYLOR

28 June 2017, 15:54

Another small addendum:
Timothy commented that Eli had bad teeth. I have a photo of him with Xaviera Hollander showing perfect upper teeth. Of course the lower teeth may not have been in such good shape.
I now have his birth certificate. He was born Elijah David Montlake in Glasgow on December 15, 1923.

Judith Mundlak Taylor

24 June 2017, 00:28

Timothy
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Pickering

JUDITH MUNDLAK TAYLOR

23 June 2017, 01:21

Timothy,
One small correction. Eli's father was born in London and his mother in Glasgow. It was our grandparents who came from Poland.

Eli lived in a suburban part of Glasgow and perhaps there were only very few Jewish families there but in general there is a fair-sized Jewish population in Glasgow. Many very poor ones lived in the Gorbals, the notorious slum which was eventually razed. It was truly Dickensian and very frightening to visit.

I remember some of his Glasgow friends. One could whistle an entire Beethoven symphony. They were all a bit self consciously artsy as befitting art students. One of them, Carlo Rossi, was another extraordinarily talented painter. I have one of his paintings too.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-carlo-rossi-artist-1-834014

The whole little coterie was good enough to be known as the Glasgow group but they split up fairly soon. Don't forget that young men in their late teens at that time were at risk of being called up as soldiers in WWII. In fact I am not sure how they escaped that fate. As you say yourself, Eli was in robust health.

JUDITH MUNDLAK TAYLOR

23 June 2017, 00:31

Timothy, your anecdotes are really significant for me. You have partially filled in a 70 year gap.

I knew about the huge nudes, and saw a picture of at least one of them. It would be marvelous to find out there they are. Someone must have them.

I gather he was truly destitute at the end and if Xaviera Hollander had not helped him he might have died much sooner. She bought many of his "monoliths" as she calls them, gorgeous fantastical drawings in the Aubrey Beardsley manner.

She told me how he could no longer even push his bike yet alone ride it and had enormous difficulty climbing the stairs to his last place. In spite of being Jewish he is buried in the village churchyard with a cross on the stone. That made Xaviera sad as she too is partly Jewish.

Do you ever go back to Ibiza? If you did perhaps you could look for his grave.

I had absolutely no idea of what had happened to him beyond some gossip in London that he was married to a rich woman with grown up daughters. Clearly that was not the case!

In the early 1940s he stayed with my family in London while going to art school. My father got him to paint portraits of himself, my mother and me. They are very fine works and hang on my wall here in SF.

I also have several photos of him as a child and a young man. Did you take any photos of him while you were with him?

Timothy Pickering

15 June 2017, 18:59

I wrote yesterday about Eli and most of it was personal anecdotes that aren't perhaps that interesting or important to his story. Perhaps of more importance to his biography is that he was Jewish. He told me his family was one of the only Jewish families in Glasgow growing up. His family was actually Polish and changed their name to Montlake. He was a very strong thick and muscular man. He had bad teeth and habitually put his hand to his mouth when he smiled or laughed. He did have an affair with the "Happy Hooker" lady. There is a funny anecdote about that. Also it's interesting that he was in Ibiza all those years. He knew Clifford Irving, his wife, Edith, and the Dutch folksinger Nina Van Pallent well, all players in the Howard Hughes autobiography scandal. He had an amazing life in Ibiza.

Timothy Pickering

14 June 2017, 23:24

I was friends with Eli in Ibiza for several years. I was a young hippie and for some reason he took a liking to me and my good friend Erik Birkholm. I think it might have begun when he was having an affair with a friend of ours. She gave him scabies as I remember so we all moved into his large house in the old town to take the cure. That began a relationship that lasted almost 20 years. He had just broken up with his long time live in lover who was a New York Jewish lady named Arlene (I don't remember her last name) who was the owner and hostess of one of the more outrageous bars by the port of the old town, La Tierra. Eli had actually built that bar himself. He was enormously talented in many ways. He could build anything, played violin beautifully as well as guitar, piano, and flute. He was very suspicious of most people, sort of paranoid in some respects. A lot of that was because of the politics of the times but also it was his nature. He had little respect for other expatriate artis in general. He thought little of Elmir D'Hory who was a local celebrity of sorts. We used to eat at Esquinqes Restaurant often and would inevitably run into people he knew. Whenever we would go to town we'd stop by and yell up to him and he would come down and let us in. We'd smoke black tobacco cigarettes, Celtas, one after another and listen to his gossip and advice. He loved those visits as much as we did. He sold "limited" copies of silkscreen pictures to partially pay for his low key lifestyle. He lived on very little and didn't really need much. The house in the old town was under rent control and it was literally falling apart as the owners just wanted him to leave and he of course wouldn't. I think he paid like $50 a month for many years. His serious paintings were huge nudes of lovers he had over the years . He painted in tempura with gold leaf backgrounds. He made his own paints. They really were magnificent in my opinion. I don't know where they ended up. The last time I saw him was in 1987 at Christmas time. I was visiting and he was in his usual seat on the corner across form the old open air market at the entrance to the old town. He saw me first, grabbed me and gave me a kiss. He had been booted out of the house (one can only imagine what that's worth today) in the old town and was living on
the road to Sta Eulalia. He had his trusty mobilet and I followed him out to a county finca where he'd ended up. He was still smoking those Celtas. I heard hundreds of his stories and accounts of his life during the years I knew him. It's sad that so little is known of his art. He was the closest thing to a genius that I've ever known. I've got four of his silkscreens on my walls. They definitely aren't limited editions. I don't know the details of his death but he stopped writing not long after that last time I saw him.

Judith M Taylor

28 April 2017, 23:23

Eli Montlake was my first cousin. Our fathers were brothers. His father changed the family name of Mundlak to Montlake in Glasgow where Eli, short for Elijah, was born and grew up. His talent was recognized vey early and he attended the Glasgow School of art and later art school in London.

He was a very distinguished artist in his day. I only knew him from my childhood during the Second World War. After that he moved away from our family circle and I only heard very occasional snippets about him.

In 1948 he married a well known Scottish artist, Helen Biggar, but she died five years later, in 1953.

He was incredibly handsome as a young man with blonde hair, blue eyes and a red beard. At some point he moved to Ibiza and lived there for the rest of his life. I recently corresponded with a woman who took care of him at the end of his life out of charity. He was close to destitution.

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