PHOTO: Michel Rouèche

I lose track of all time when I’m in my studio working to beautiful music, hours can pass when I am ‘in the zone’ and it often feels as though someone else is doing the work through me! As the quote from the French author André Gide goes: ‘Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better!“

Eleanor Cardozo, artist

Eleanor Cardozo is an English artist specialising in portraits and figurative sculptures; trained in classical art in Florence and London, producing exquisite pieces of art has been her passion and profession for nearly forty years. Here we meet Eleanor in Geneva, where she has her studio and where one of her bronze foundries is located…

NS: “Eleanor, you’re amongst the most prolific of the artists I know – drawing and sculpting – what was it that first inspired your career in art?”

EC: ”I’ve been drawing since I was a small child; art is a very strong feature within my family – my grandmother, Eleanor Brotherton-Ratcliffe, was a portrait artist at the Royal Academy and my parents encouraged all their children to be creative in music and the arts. Those were my favourite subjects at school – along with gymnastics…”

I live in Geneva, Switzerland and have my studio and one of my bronze foundries here; I travel the world for private commissions…”

Eleanor Cardozo, artist

NS: ”As your work developed, which came first – the drawing or sculpture?”

EC: ”Drawing has always been my forte from a very young age and I had a knack for capturing a likeness, however I was no good at painting; to this day, I don’t paint… I think I like the control and precision of pencil, pastel, chalk and charcoal and therefore find the paint brush too flexible and inaccurate; I’d love to be a painter, but I’m not very good with colour either. My art master thought I was strong with volume & shape but not colour and he suggested I try sculpture when I was sixteen – I loved the challenge of three dimension and building faces and bodies out of clay; there’s something raw and ’biblical’ about creating a body out of earth! While I was still at art college I was commissioned by Cartier to make a bronze polo player, which became their trophy for all polo matches… then other private commissions followed…”

NS: ”I know some artists, including writers, often have to wait for ‘inspiration to strike’ – is the same for you or do you work every day?”

EC: ”Most days I’m working in my studio, either on a commissioned sculpture or drawing a portrait for a client; I’ve very little time to work on inspired ideas as I am always trying to finish work that has already been commissioned – I have orders of portraits and sculptures well into 2024…”

NS: ”What was the origin of your themes of ballet dancers and gymnasts, and where have they been installed and/or exhibited? I know you have a very impressive back catalogue…”

EC: ”I’ve always been inspired by the human form and I’ve been a figurative artist since I was at school; being a gymnast at that time made it much easier for me to understand the way muscles move and the anatomy, so I started sculpting dancers and gymnasts before I even went to art college. Because of this particular career history, I guess I was the natural choice of artist to sculpt all the rhythmic gymnasts for the 2012 London Olympics. During that period of time, I had monument gymnast sculptures on display at Heathrow, at Westminster Abbey, in Kensington Palace Gardens and on Bond Street…”

NS: ”Do you remember who your first paying client was? And, if so, what was the piece?”

EC: ”I was still at school, probably only fourteen, when a friend of my parents asked me to draw a portrait of his wife; my mother used to ask me to draw portraits of friends who had invited us for lunch, as a ‘thank you’ gift. We were such a big family – I’m one of ten children – that I think she felt we were an imposition and a handful for anyone to host, so it was her way of thanking them! There are portraits all over the world of children I drew back then, who are now adults in their thirties and forties!”

NS: ”What type of commissions are most requested now?”

EC: ”The same – portraits in chalk and charcoal, or in sepia; I think 70%-80% of my work is portraiture as the demand is always there. I used to draw all the children in the kindergartens and London pre-prep schools in Knightsbridge & Belgravia when I was a student at the City & Guilds School of Art – and I paid my college fees with the proceeds! Back then, I was charging only £20 a portrait! Today specially commissioned portraits are many times that and sculpture portraits are in a different league as they can take over three months to create…”

The Mandarin Oriental in Geneva showcases ten of my sculptures, one on each floor of the hotel’s grand staircase; most of my work is now in private collections around the world…”

Eleanor Cordozo, artist

ABOVE: Eleanor working on her gymnast sculpture ‘POISE’, commissioned for the London Olympics; the sculpture installed in Geneva

NS: ”Which would you say are your largest, most prominent installations?”

EC: ”The three metre gymnast tall ‘POISE’ sculpture from the London Olympics stands outside the Hotel President Wilson by the lake in Geneva; it’s listed in the tourist book as one of the main attractions to look out for, and I often see tourists taking pictures with it! There’s also a smaller version outside the headquarters of the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) in Lausanne, home to the Olympic museum… then, there’s a four metre sculpture in Abu Dhabi, another in Belgium and one in Luxembourg too…”

The materials I mostly use for sculpture are bronze and marble… of course, the creative process is completely different for each as marble is carved but bronze is made first in clay – so I am modelling up instead of carving down – and the finished clay is then cast into bronze in a foundry. I use four different foundries located in England, Switzerland and Italy for monument casting, miniature casting and life-size casting; they each have their specialities…”

Eleanor Cordozo, artist

NS: ”Do you participate in any of the major art exhibitions..”

EC ”I used to take part in all the big art exhibitions – from Masterpiece London through to Art Basel Miami – however, transporting heavy and delicate sculptures always resulted in them being damaged… then Covid hit and all the major exhibitions became digital so now it’s actually much easier for me to exhibit that way. Several galleries represent me on line, as they have always done…”

NS: ”Eleanor, to say I’m impressed would be an understatement… which collaborations are you personally most proud of, to date?”

CD: ”There’s a private collection of sculptures by Lorenzo Quinn and myself in Geneva, and I feel so honoured to be showcased with such a famous and wonderful sculptor. I’ve also worked with the American maestro Richard Macdonald who sculpted all the Cirque du Soleil performers – he is a phenomenal artist! Working with Mohamed Al Fayed at Harrods and also at the Ritz in Paris was an incredibly rich experience – he was the man who really put my work on the global map; I’ll always be grateful to him. I was also very honoured to be made ambassador to Luxury Swiss watch brand Bedat & Co in 2012; it’s a beautiful collaboration of Swiss craftsmanship at the very highest level…”

I often work with super-yacht interior designers and I’ve collaborated with both interior and landscape designers on various projects; it’s always interesting to work with other creative people…”

Eleanor Cordozo, artist

NS: ”You’ve worked on so many interesting projects, Eleanor, and on behalf of some of the most amazing clients – what’s next? Do you have a ’dream project’ or a particularly beautiful ’dream client’ in mind?”

EC: ”Almost all my clients are dream clients because they’re just as excited about the project as I am, and they see all the work behind the scenes plus the work in progress – it’s so encouraging for the artist to get live, positive feedback while working. Of course, it’s an added bonus if the subject is particularly beautiful – which they very often are! However, I will always make the end result as elegant and beautiful as possible. Right now, I’m working on a life-size bronze of a very beautiful lady which is to be placed at the end of her pool, then afterwards I’m sculpting another life-size figure of a nineteen year old. I’ve also been asked to take part in the Chelsea Barracks sculpture trail, so I’m in discussions about that.. realistically, I have to turn down more work than I can take on as I simply haven’t got the time to do it all – and I realise that it’s a very fortunate position to be in!”

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