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Inspirational East Lancashire artist loses cancer battle
AN amazing young artist, whose work was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, has lost her brave cancer battle.
Tributes have poured in for Ellen Riley-Charleuf, 24, who grew up in Hurst Green and lived in Barrowford.
Ellen died in her husband Cedric’s arms.
The couple met in France while Ellen, a former Stonyhurst College and Blackburn College pupil, was studying art and literature three years ago.
She looked set for success on the Parisian art scene but three days before her 22nd birthday and eight days before her first solo exhibition at the fashionable Swiss Village in Paris, was rushed into hospital for a seven-hour operation to remove a brain tumour.
Cedric, also an artist, proposed at her bedside following the operation and the couple got married at St Peter’s Chapel, Stonyhurst, in June 2010.
Ellen had exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery aged 16 and a year later was the North-West winner of ITV’s Brush with Fame.
In 2010 she was commissioned to paint a series for a Clitheroe Castle exhibition of portraits of community champions, called Heroes, among them Clitheroe philanthropists John and Rosemary Lancaster, and disability activist Simon O’Rourke.
She was also artist-in-residence at Stonyhurst College.
Her most recent work was a significant commission from The Society of Jesus in London for a series of 12 portraits of Jesuit martyrs.
Her father Peter Riley, the front man of popular band, the Swing Commanders, said: “Ellen lived somewhat of a fairytale lifestyle. She achieved what she had always wanted to in such a short time.
“We are comforted by the fact that she had managed to do so much including meeting the love of her life Cedric who also helped her develop her artistic skills.
“Earlier this year Ellen had started to suffer from mobility problems. The first time she was checked the tests didn’t show anything but she went for more tests six weeks ago after her mobility deteriorated further.
The scans showed that she had a tumour, this time in the lower part of her brain which was more aggressive.
“Ellen was very calm throughout and never showed her suffering in public although it must have been horrifying for her.
“She was a wonderful daughter and has left us with so many memories that we can cherish.”
Andrew Johnson, headmaster at Stonyhurst College, described Ellen, who died in the early hours on Saturday, as an inspiration.
She said: "Ellen was a wonderfully talented artist. She spent the last year as artist-in-residence at Stonyhurst and inspired many of our pupils with her work."
Clitheroe Castle Museum manager Rachel Jackson said: "Ellen was an incredibly talented artist and a delight to work with. Her Heroes exhibition was very well received and we will remember her with fondness."
Clitheroe philanthropists John and Rosemary Lancaster, who also sat for the Heroes exhibition, said: "Ellen was a remarkable and talented young woman. She was an inspiration to us and we will treasure her artwork."
Clitheroe councillor and disability activist Simon O’Rourke, who sat for the Heroes exhibition, said: "Despite being ill, Ellen chose to pick up her paintbrush and follow her dream. She was an amazing young woman, who shared her talent with the community.
"The support she received from her partner, Cedric, and family was an inspiration and my thoughts are with them."
Ellen’s parents, Peter and Carmel Riley, principal at Oakhill College, Whalley, said: "Although Ellen’s life was short, she found happiness and shared it with everyone she came in contact with. We will all miss her."
Ellen also leaves her brothers Thomas and Xavier and sisters Kitty, Mary and Maisie-Jo.
Her funeral will take place at St Peter’s Chapel, Stonyhurst, on Wednesday, July 18, at 10.30am, followed by a private burial.
Donations are requested in lieu of flowers for The Christie hospital in Manchester.