Elwes is not only remembered as the British war artist but as the society portrait painter. Born in Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire, his mother was so determined to have an artist in the family she took up painting herself while pregnant. At 16 Elwes attended the Slade School of Fine Art and was taught under Henry Tonks and Philip Steer. On graduating at the Slade, Elwes went onto study at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Paris. He stayed in Paris for 8 years studying and developing his technique and style.