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Art lover gifted treasure trove of paintings to Bermuda

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Geoffrey Elliott with his wife Fay and daughter Sonia Sleep, left, outside Buckingham Palace for an OBE ceremony in 2005 (File photograph)
Geoffrey Elliott (File photograph)

Geoffrey Elliott 1939-2021

A former Wall Street banker, author and art lover who gifted a treasure trove of paintings and antiquities to Bermuda has died.

Geoffrey Elliott was 82.

Mr Elliott, with Fay, his wife, who died last year, gifted a priceless collection of drawings, watercolours, prints and photographs of Bermuda in the 19th century to the island.

The Elliott Collection, donated by the British-born couple in 1994, is held in the Bermuda Archives.

The Elliotts, who moved to Bermuda in 1990, researched and built their collection themselves.

The couple got an early start with their philanthropy, first donating a rare book by George Berkeley, after whom the Berkeley Institute is named.

The Elliotts gave the Archives a collection of 35 original watercolour paintings by Thomas Driver, an artist and surveyor who painted Bermuda in the early 19th century, in 1992.

Driver’s paintings offered a unique window on to life in Bermuda at the time.

Pieces from the Elliott’s collections are exhibited at the National Gallery, as well as in the Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Room in the National Museum of Bermuda in Dockyard.

Other significant donations followed.

The Elliotts acquired a pair of restored 18th century portraits by the English painter Joseph Blackburn at an auction in 1996 for the Bermuda National Gallery, which the couple also supported.

Elena Strong, the executive director of the National Museum of Bermuda, said last night: “Their collections are amazing primary sources to advance the expanding field of Atlantic World studies – generating new knowledge in the areas of history, historical geography, archaeology and climate studies – and are a tool to help us all better understand how Bermuda positioned itself in the world.

“The Elliotts have been supporters of the Museum and Bermuda heritage since the late 1990s and helped preserve and save Commissioner's House.

“Their generosity has been extraordinary.”

“In the process, they provided us with a vital part of Bermuda’s historical narrative.”

She added: “They will belong to Bermuda, for ever thanks to the Elliotts.”

A spokeswoman for the Bermuda National Trust said the couple were “devoted to Bermuda and keen collectors of Bermudiana”.

She added: “Their passion for history drew them to the work of the Bermuda National Trust, and they were generous supporters.”

She said the Elliotts donated their collection, recording life in Bermuda in the days before photography, to the BNT in 2017.

Mr Elliott was appointed an Officer of the British Empire in 2004 for his outstanding contributions to Bermuda's cultural heritage.

Ms Elliott told The Royal Gazette in 1992: “Bermuda is our adopted country.

“We already have an art collection and we wanted to share this with the people of Bermuda.”

Mr Elliott was chairman of the executive committee of the BNG by 1996 and became chairman of the Bermuda Land Development Company.

Also a writer and translator, he explored his family’s background in British intelligence in a biography of his father, Major Kavan Elliott, I Spy: The Secret Life of a British Agent, published in 1998.

The senior Elliott’s exploits included a parachute drop into the mountains of Yugoslavia at the height of the Second World War to help partisans fighting a guerrilla war against the Nazi occupation.

Mr Elliott also translated a memoir by the Russian wife of Harold “Kim” Philby, a British Secret Intelligence Service officer and Soviet mole.

He followed in his father’s footsteps and had a brief early career in British Intelligence that informed his writing on espionage.

Mr Elliott was a former vice-chairman of the SG Warburg & Co investment bank in London and managing director of Morgan Stanley in New York.

He was also chairman of Latsco Shipping, a Bermuda-registered private holding company, and a director of G Heywood Hill, a London booksellers.

Mr Elliott was an honorary fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford and a trustee of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

Mr Elliott was appointed a director of the then-Bank of Bermuda in 2006.

The donated works are kept in climate controlled conditions in the Archives.

Mr Elliott was also a long-time member of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, where he served on the finance committee.

David Furtado, the club’s general manager, said: “He was a very knowledgable and seasoned man of the world, very down to earth and supportive.

“He was a regular known and loved by our staff and a good friend. It’s a huge loss.”

Mr Elliott is survived by daughter Sonia, son Tim, and grandsons Thomas and Jamie.

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Published May 12, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated May 12, 2021 at 3:28 pm)

Art lover gifted treasure trove of paintings to Bermuda

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