Edward Ladell’s obituary in The Essex County Standard considered him ‘the foremost man of his day in fruit painting.’ He was entirely self-taught, having initially followed the profession of his father, Christmas Ladell, as a coachbuilder. A native of Colchester, he moved to Torquay and later to Exeter where he took a studio at 20 Queen’s Street. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1856 and 1886, and also at the British Institute, the Royal Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street and local West Country venues. Ladell became immensely successful and the finest English still life painter of his generation.
Ladell specialised in still lifes composed of fruit, flowers and a variety of objects including glass, tankards, china vases and bird’s nests. His technique achieved an astonishing degree of realism. Ladell’s paintings are always easily recognisable as he used to use the same articles over and over again on a marble ledge draped with an oriental rug. His work was much sought after and they often ensured flattering notices from the leading representative journals. His biographer Frank Lewis writes: ‘he paints with the fidelity of an old Dutchman and with the brilliancy of colour all of his own. A dead duck lying upon a board, as represented by Mr. Ladell, is a duck indeed...maybe it’s a branch from a raspberry bush laid carefully down, and while the fruit is round and luscious, over-ripe or scarcely ripe, the leaves whether fresh or fading, are represented with a verisimilitude that is marvellous.’
His wife, Ellen Maria Ladell, neé Levitt, whom he married in 1878, was also a painter and worked from 1856 to 1898. She painted in a style almost identical to her husband’s however she usually signed with her full name, whereas Edward used the EL monogram back-to-back.
The work of Ladell is represented in the Bristol City Art Gallery, the Colchester and Essex Museum, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Essex, the Harrogate City Art Gallery, the Reading City Art Gallery and the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield.