Percy Shakespeare

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Percy Shakespeare
Self Portrait (Mephistopheles) - Percy Shakespeare.jpg
Self Portrait (Mephistopheles) (1933), now in Dudley Art Gallery
Born (1906-02-28)28 February 1906
Kates Hill, Dudley, Worcestershire, England
Died 25 May 1943(1943-05-25) (aged 37)
Brighton, Sussex, England
Cause of death Air raid
Education Dudley Art School
Alma mater Birmingham School of Art
Occupation Painter

Percy Shakespeare (born 28 February 1906 in Dudley, England;[1] died 25 May 1943 in Brighton, England[2]) was an English painter.[3] He was a celebrated artist, but died in an air raid during the Second World War.[4]

Life and work[edit]

Shakespeare was born in 1906 in the slums of the Kates Hill area of Dudley, the fourth of eight children[3] of John Thomas Shakespeare and his wife Ada.[2] His family subsequently moved to council housing in the nearby Wren's Nest Estate area.[3]

In 1920, after a chance meeting at the Dudley Museum and Art Gallery with Ivo Shaw, the principal of Dudley Art School,[3] the young Percy Shakespeare was offered a place at the school where his fees were waived for his eight years attendance.[3] Here he showed a talent for figure drawing and portraits. Eventually he attended Birmingham School of Art, where he studied anatomical drawing under Harold Holden[1] from 1923 to 1927[3] and obtained an Art Masters Certificate in Anatomical Drawing,[1] and qualified as a teacher. He taught at Birmingham and Kidderminster.[3]

Tropical Bird House, Dudley Zoo (c. 1939, set in Dudley Zoo)

Barbara Wilkinson, daughter of the curator of Dudley Art Gallery, sat as a child for several of his paintings, including Caravanners and Tropical Bird House, Dudley Zoo.[5]

In 1933, he had his first exhibit at the Royal Academy, "A Mulatto", a portrait of a lady, which was later bought by Dudley Art Gallery. Throughout the 1930s, he continued to paint and produced a number of paintings each year (mainly in oil) that were submitted to the Royal Academy, and often accepted for exhibition. He also exhibited at the Paris Salon and at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, of which he was elected an associate in 1936.[1][3]

During this period, he was living at 12, Maple Road Dudley (52°31′10″N 2°05′20″W / 52.51946°N 2.08887°W / 52.51946; -2.08887).[6]

When World War II broke out in 1939, he enlisted[1] in the Royal Navy, and trained at HMS Vernon.[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

In May 1943, whilst stationed ashore at Roedean School[7] in East Sussex, he was killed when a German bomber jettisoned its payload over the south coast, when he was walking alone,[3] opposite Marine Gate in Brighton.[2][8]

He left behind many paintings and drawings showing life in the 1930s, many of which are held at Dudley Museum and Art Gallery.

In an obituary, Ivo Shaw was quoted as saying: "He was the best painter in oils the School had produced".[9]

In 2009, his work was featured in an episode of BBC TV's Flog It!.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Price, Robert (1979). A Memorial exhibition to Percy Shakespeare, A.R.B.S.A. 1906-1943. Dudley Art Gallery. 
  2. ^ a b c [1] CWGC Casualty Record, Brighton County Borough, civilian war dead.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Picture of the Week". Birmingham Post. 1999-10-09. Retrieved 2012-11-03 – via HighBeam. (Subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ Dudley Museum and Art Gallery
  5. ^ "Famous town artist in focus at museum". Birmingham Mail. 2007-04-30. Retrieved 2012-11-03 – via HighBeam. (Subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ Correspondence in Percy Shakespeare file, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists
  7. ^ "Percy Shakespeare Collection". Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 3 November 2012. 
  8. ^ The CWGC record lists him as a civilian, but do not record his naval service.
  9. ^ Shaw, Ivo (1943-06-01). "Obituary". Birmingham Post. [page needed]
  10. ^ "Dudley". Flog It!. Series 7. 2009-03-11. BBC. Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  11. ^ Flog It at Dudley Concert Hall. October 2008.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]