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Mayor unveils Blue Plaque for historic Dudley artist

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A historic blue plaque to remember Dudley-born Percy Shakespeare has been unveiled by the Mayor of Dudley in recognition of his contribution to art.

The plaque was unveiled today (Wednesday January 26) in St James’s Road on the façade of the former Dudley Museum and former Dudley School of Art where Percy Shakespeare was a student in the 1920s.

Percy Shakespeare (1906 – 1943) was an immensely talented locally born artist from Kates Hill, Dudley.  He is famous for his flowing but precise figure drawing technique, his powerful portraits and a series of pictures depicting 1930s leisure activities, such as tennis, bathing, boating, cricket, an afternoon at the Ice rink and most famously, a visit to the Tropical Bird House at Dudley Zoo.

He exhibited his oil paintings at the Royal Academy, Paris Salon, the Dudley Art Circle, and Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (he was elected Associate of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 1936). Ivo Shaw, the Principal of Dudley Art School, called him “the best painter in oils the School has produced”, and he went on to study anatomical drawing at the renowned Birmingham School of Art.

Mayor of Dudley at the unveiling of he blue plaque for Percy Shakespeare

From left to right: Prof Brendan Flynn from Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and former Curator of Birmingham Museum, Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Anne Millward and Robin Shaw.

Councillor Anne Millward, the Mayor of Dudley, said:

The Blue Plaque is a fabulous way to recognise Percy Shakespeare’s talent and keep his memory alive. The council has a number of his paintings in our collection and we are really lucky to have these. His artwork is outstanding and it will be a privilege to unveil the plaque to commemorate him and his work.

The Mayor was joined at the unveiling by Ivo Shaw’s son, Robin Shaw, who wrote the biography of Shakespeare. Sadly, the life of Percy Shakespeare was cut short in May 1943: whilst serving at a Naval base, he was out in the open air, when bombs were dropped from a plane near Marine Gate, Brighton.

Robin Shaw, said:

My father, Ivo Shaw, always thought Percy Shakespeare was the most talented student he had had in a long career in art. In 1922, when he was principal of Dudley Art school, he discovered Percy, a small boy from the slums loitering in the art gallery. He gave him paper and pencil only to be astonished at Percy’s natural talent.
My father would be delighted he is being remembered with a blue plaque.

The plaque has been funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Dudley Council through the Dudley Townscape Heritage programme.

Dudley Museum at the Archives is hosting free, short talks about some of Percy’s paintings on Monday 28 February, which would have been his birthday.

Places need to be pre-booked either by calling 01384 812750 or booking online through ticketing service Eventbrite and can be found by searching the site for Dudley Museum and Percy Shakespeare.

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