It feels like forever since I wrote my last blog, which, being sensible, it wasn’t. It was only the end of last week, but I’m used to writing this every day. Presently I am engaged in painting our living room, the room where I write, so I am forced to type this in bed. I am hoping Mr Walker isn’t planning on coming to bed any time soon as his side is currently filled with books. Anyway, hello, I’ve missed you and I want to talk to you about one of my favourite lesser-known painters, John Byam Liston Shaw.
Mr Walker has now come to bed and grumbled because Lionel Lambourne’s Victorian Painting is where he should be. T’uh. Anyway, Byam Shaw…if Byam Shaw had been born forty years before he was, I think Millais would have had a serious run for his money in the ‘child prodigy’ stakes. As an eight year old, Byam Shaw was thrown off a donkey and badly hurt his left arm. His response when asked if he was alright was ‘It’s not my drawing arm’. Ah, kids. Anyway, Byam Shaw is one of those artists who I have loved for ages but not worked out that all the pictures are by the same artist. He doesn’t crop up in big exhibitions very often, but I’m guessing that most provincial museums have one of his art works, if not two – just checked with Mr Walker and the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum have two. Gosh, our pillow talk is saucy. Anyway, the thing about Byam Shaw is that he is nice and Pre-Raphaelite but I didn’t realise exactly how deep his
PRB leanings went. Take for example one of his well-known images The Blessed Damosel (1895).
Now, I hadn’t put two and two together but of course this is a Rossetti-inspired image. The two stanza’s from Rossetti’s poem that accompany the image draw attention to the five handmaidens of Mary, all sewing the heavenly birth-robes, while a choir sing and a couple are led through to heaven. It is at once a traditional triangular composition, but also packed with people, filling the frame. Despite the melee of figures, Mary stands out from the crowd in her absolute stillness. He was only twenty three when he painted this and it was hung in prime position, on the line, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Blimey.
|Queen of Spades|
|Queen of Hearts|
I saw ‘and he begetteth a son and there is nothing in his hand,’ when it was exhibited with the Forbes collection about a decade ago and its tight framing blew me away. The general sense of a father troubled by his son, a quarrel, the father thinking deeply about the financial implication of his family’s behaviour are all apparent without intimate knowledge of the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Byam Shaw painted a series of works from Ecclesiastes, little moral pictures, with their stories apparent but not sledge-hammered.
|Rats, no, only in balck and white|
Finally, I have to talk about possibly the best known of Byam Shaw’s works today.
|The Boer War 1900 (1901)|
Take yourselves off to your local museums, or online, and find the beautiful works by John Byam Liston Shaw, you’ll be surprised how many you know. I better get some sleep as I have to scrape down floor boards tomorrow. Night night…