Ellen became interested in art as a teenager, when she started painting small portraits as a way to earn money to help with her family’s finances. A relative on her mother’s side of the family helped her attend classes at the Drexel Institute starting in October 1894. A photograph of Ellen as a supporting cast member in a play appears in the Drexel yearbook, The Eccentric, in 1897. Ellen is second from the right.
Ellen was an apt pupil of Howard Pyle’s and was able to imitate his style to an exacting degree, as is evident below in “The Immigrants,” one of her works that was created for Janice Meredith and is in the collection of the Brandywine River Museum of Art.
Ellen was one of a dozen or so students selected to participate in Howard Pyle’s summer school in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She is seen here sitting on the steps of one of the buildings at the Brandywine Battlefield with her classmates.
From bottom to top: Anna Whelan Betts (holding hat), Ellen Bernard Thompson (Pyle), Sarah S. Stilwell (Weber), and Bertha Corson Day (Bates). The woman at the top is unidentified.