Bettina Shaw-Lawrence

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Bettina Shaw-Lawrence
Born 29 July 1921
London, England
Nationality English
Education Fernand Léger, Sir Cedric Morris
Known for Figurative art
Movement Magic realism, neo-romantic

Bettina Shaw-Lawrence also known as Betty Shaw-Lawrence, is an English 20th century figurative artist born in 1921. Though she studied painting and drawing under Fernand Léger, Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, was mainly self-taught. She worked professionally until the early 1980s.


Born on 29 July 1921 in London, Bettina Shaw-Lawrence is a post-World War II artist. Her work is figurative and expresses itself mainly through oil paintings. Her other favourite mediums are black and white or coloured ink drawings. She is also a book illustrator, "widely known as a portrait painter",[1] and a sculptor. Her works are represented in private collections but recently her pen and ink drawing of the poet David Gascoyne has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in London. From 1946 onwards, the artist had several solo and group exhibitions in galleries of contemporary Art in London, Rome and New York.

The artist attended, before the outbreak of the Second World War, drawing classes under Fernand Léger and studied sculpture with Ossip Zadkine in Paris. During those formative years David Gascoyne, the Surrealist poet, was her mentor.[2][3][4] On her return to London in September, 1939, Shaw-Lawrence met David Kentish and Lucian Freud[5] both students at Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines' East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. This encounter enabled her to spend the summer of 1940 studying under the artist Cedric Morris and though she returned to the School at Benton End near Hadleigh, Suffolk, for short spells during the war, Shaw-Lawrence mainly painted in Richmond-upon-Thames .[6]

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Bettina travelled to the Continent. Countries such as Spain or France inspired her works and were subsequently exhibited at The Leicester Galleries and the Hanover Gallery. In 1958 Shaw-Lawrence left England to move to Italy where her oils on canvas became more luminous and serene though her work " might be sets for very sophisticated doll dramas".[7] Her paintings were steeped in "a world of crystalline beauty, alive and real", a world devoid of intruders "because of this power of hers to purify reality and restore it to innocence".[8]

Bettina Shaw-Lawrence has now settled permanently in Italy with her daughter.


Solo exhibitions[edit]

1947 - The Leicester Galleries - London.[9] This first exhibition of the artist was announced by The Times.[10]

Its catalogue[11] comprised: 16 oil paintings and 12 drawings (ink and gouache, ink and water-colour, coloured inks and chalk as well as one pastel), most of which depicted landscapes, flowers or still-lives with the exception of one portrait of David Gascoyne.

In 1948, The Penguin New Writing n°33 edited by John Lehmann published two of her works from this exhibition: 'Richmond Bridge' (oil) and 'Boy with a Donkey' (coloured inks).

1953 - Hanover Gallery - London. The artist's second show was also announced in The Times.[12] The catalogue[13] listed 18 oil paintings.

1963 - Bodley Gallery - 223 East 60th Street, New York . April 15, 1963

The exhibition catalogue[14] comprises 40 "oil on canvas", all pertaining to the artist's Italian period. Her exhibition was announced by ARTnews.[15][16]

1975 - Wivenhoe Arts Club - Wivenhoe (Essex)

"An exhibition of paintings and drawings by Bettina Shaw-Lawrence opened at the club on Saturday evening and among the guests was Mr Arthur Lett-Haines, one of the leaders of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing where Miss Shaw-Lawrence studied many years ago. There are 39 works in the exhibition... which will remain open for the next three weeks",.[17]

Further exhibits[edit]

The artist's first exhibits in London included the Reid & Lefèvre Gallery and the Léger Gallery. These were followed in 1955 by the Arthur Jeffress Gallery in London in collaboration with the Galerie Charpentier in Paris. On this occasion, her portrait entitled 'Portrait with a Rose' was selected for the cover of The Listener to announce a BBC radio programme on the art of the Trompe l'Oeil',dated February 3, 1955.[18]

The Bodley catalogue dated 1963, confirms that when Bettina Shaw-Lawrence lived in Rome, Italy (1959–1967) her works were exhibited " at the Obelisco and Gallery 88".[19]

In 1985, Bettina Shaw-Lawrence took part in the exhibition entitled 'The Benton End Circle' which was held at Bury St Edmunds Art gallery in Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk). On that occasion the artist sold a pen and ink drawing of Lucian Freud posing in the nude for the students of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Benton End in the early 1940s (see external link). This was her last exhibition and it had taken place in a gallery located close to Benton End where she had always longed to be during the war years and would "always remember the lovely times I've had down there".[20]

Portrait artist[edit]

Among the painter's sitters were the designer Jean Muir, her husband Harry Leuckert, David Kentish, his sister, the actress Elizabeth Kentish, the poet David Gascoyne, and the journalist and writer Paul Johnson (writer).

Book illustrator[edit]

1946 - William Miller Abrahams. 'Interval in Carolina'. Jacket designed by Bettina Shaw-Lawrence.[21] London: Editions Poetry London. OCLC 7840602

1949 - Shaw-Lawrence, Bettina and Fassam, Thomas. 'An Herbarium For The Fair: Being a Book of Common Herbs with Etchings by Betty Shaw-Lawrence'.London: The hand & Flower Press.[22]

1972 - Shaw-Lawrence, Bettina.Festchrift for KFB (Katherine Falley Bennett). London: The Lyrebird Press, Micro-dot-Book. p. 167 and a double page drawing p. 140 - 141. OCLC 1121430

1979 - Shaw-Lawrence, Bettina, Durrell, Lawrence.'Apple Grammar'. London: Poetry London/Apple Magazine, vol.1 N°1.p. 79. OCLC 6257472

1989 - Shaw-Lawrence, Bettina. Tambimuttu Bridge Between Two Worlds. London: Peter Owen Publishers. p. 236. OCLC 25026573


  1. ^ Bodley Gallery New York catalogue. (1963).Bettina Shaw Lawrence: Bodley Gallery,New York: Bodley Gallery, OCLC83884329
  2. ^ David Gascoyne (1980)Journal 1936-37.London: Enitharmon Press, ISBN 0-905289-66-8 p.51
  3. ^ David Gascoyne (1978) Paris Journal 1937-39, London: Enitharmon Press, ISBN 0-905289-35-8 p. 110
  4. ^ Robert Fraser (writer) (2012),Night Thoughts The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne,Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-955814-8, pp.104,120,143,169,171,187,189,199-200, 210,
  5. ^ In her correspondence to Arthur Lett-Haines dated June 2, 1941 (available at Hyman Dreitman Research Centre, Tate Britain Millbank, London) Bettina refers to Lucian Freud who "had just arrived back from Halifax looking tremendous, fat & very tough;" and to David Kentish who "has been away for 2 months in Wales having an operation"
  6. ^ Events attested by her correspondence to her two art teachers, Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, from 15 May 1940 to 17 June 1943. Documents available at Hyman Dreitman Research Centre, Tate Britain Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
  7. ^ Reviews and previews:New names this month (May 1963) ARTnews. Volume 62. Number 3: p.64
  8. ^ Maovaz, Sigfrido (1963), Bettina Shaw Lawrence, New York: Bodley Gallery Catalogue, OCLC 83884329
  9. ^
  10. ^ Art Exhibitions ( October 1, 1947). Leicester Galleries, Leicester Sq.: First Exhibitions by Betty Shaw-Lawrence. The Times p.10, Issue 50880, col A
  11. ^ The Leicester Galleries Catalogue available at Victoria and Albert Museum Library: N°200.B.217
  12. ^ Art Exhibitions (June 9, 1953). Hanover Gallery, 32 A, St Georges Street, W.1: Paintings by Betty Shaw-Lawrence. The Times p.2, Issue 52643, col A
  13. ^ Hanover Gallery (1953).Betty Shaw-Lawrence. London:Hanover Gallery. OCLC 80727175. Catalogue available at:The Frick Collection, Frick Art Reference Library, New York, NY 10021, U.S.A.
  14. ^ Bodley Gallery (1963).Bettina Shaw Lawrence: Bodley Gallery. New York: Bodley Gallery, OCLC 83884329. Catalogue available at: The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, NY
  15. ^
  16. ^ Reviews and previews: New names this month (May, 1963). ARTnews. Volume 62.Number 3: p.64
  17. ^ The Essex County Standard, 4 July 1975
  18. ^ The Listener cover available at: The Frick Collection, Frick Art Reference Library, New York, OCLC: 77739295
  19. ^ Catalogue available at: The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York, NY
  20. ^ Letter 8317.1.3422 addressed to Lett-Haines - Hyman Dreitman Research Centre, Tate Britain Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
  21. ^ A complete Checklist of the imprint."Tambimuttu Bridge Between Two Worlds"(1989). London: Peter Owen Publishers. p286. OCLC 25026573
  22. ^ Book available at: Cambridge University Library, London Library, University of Oxford Library. OCLC 2159732

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