Picture of the Week

The Birmingham Post (England), October 9, 1999 | Go to article overview

Picture of the Week


The Bird House, Dudley Zoo (1939). Percy Shakespeare (1906-1943) at Dudley Museum & Art Gallery.

Percy Shakespeare was born in Kates Hill, the same part of Dudley where James Whale, the Hollywood director of Frankenstein and Showboat, was born a few years earlier.

The fourth of eight children, his early years were spent in grimy poverty, although his family was among the first to be rehoused in the newly-built council houses at Wren's Nest.

Thanks to the principal, Ivo Shaw, spotting his exceptional talent, Shakespeare was able to attend Dudley Art School for eight years as a full or part-time student, free of charge. He also studied anatomical drawing at the Birmingham School of Art between 1923 and 1927.

He later taught at Birmingham and Kidderminster and became an associate of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

During the 1930s Shakespeare began to develop an individual style of genre painting, often based on everyday subjects drawn from Dudley, such as the zoo or local ice rink. The deadpan realism calls to mind his American contemporary Edward Hopper, although Shakespeare's scenes are usually more animated.

Sadly, his promise was cut short by one of the countless pointless deaths caused by the Second World War. He was killed in May 1943 when a German bomber jettisoned a bomb on the south coast where Shakespeare, serving in the Navy, was taking a solitary walk.

This painting is one of 16 from the permanent collection of Dudley Museum and Art Gallery included in the exhibition Portrait of an Artist: The Life and Work of Percy Shakespeare, showing there until October 30. Another 20 have been lent, mainly from private collections, and it is hoped that the exhibition will help to bring to light more paintings by this little known but interesting West Midlands artist.

Ikon exhibition: babel: contemporary art and the journeys of communication - showing the triumphs and frustrations of language explored by an international group of artists.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 0121 303 2834: More Favourite Things. Exhibits selected by members of the public. Until Oct 24; Made in the Middle. Exhibition presenting an overview of the best in contemporary crafts in the Midlands. More than 40 makers are represented, spanning ceramics, jewellery, embroidery, automata, baskets and much more. Until Oct 24; Messages. Collaborative printmaking project involving artists in Birmingham, Leipzig and New York. Until Dec 5; Computers and Printmaking. Work from a recent research project by Chelsea and Camberwell art schools. Until Dec 5 (Mon-Thur, Sat 10am-5pm, Fri 10.30am-5pm, Sun 12.30pm-5pm).

Birmingham & Midland Institute, Margaret St 0121 236 3591: Midland Painting Group Exhibition. …

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