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Dudley Council the historic capital of the Black Country
Dudley Skyline

There are a number of paintings by Percy Shakespeare currently on display in the Museum.

Dudley's painter

Percy Shakespeare. 1906-1943. 

Percy was born in Kate's Hill, Dudley on 28 February 1906. He was one of Dudley's most famous artistic sons. He died on 25 May, 1943 in Brighton during an air raid. 

Dudley Art School

Percy's family were very poor; he was one of eight children.  He could have expected little in the way of education. But when he was coming up to school leaving age in 1920, a chance meeting with the Dudley’s Art School principal, Ivo Shaw, in Dudley Art Gallery gave him  the chance to break out of his environment and train as an artist.  Recognising his precocious talent Ivo Shaw took him into the school and waived the fees. From the start Percy had a remarkable gift for figure drawing.  He could see the lines in the human form and put them on paper with rare and confident precision.  And he was prepared to work hard.

This student displays marked ability, and it is interesting to note the local authority have granted him a scholarship to attend Birmingham School of Art for figure study.

The Dudley Herald, 1923. Reporting on Dudley School of Art's third annual exhibition. 

Thirties at leisure

Through the 1930's Percy embarked on a series of oil paintings showing groups of people at leisure. These compositions were the result of intense work with many preliminary drawings of the component figures.  The drawings themselves are of considerable merit in their own right.  He painted one or two of these compositions each year and submitted them to the Royal Academy. Often they were accepted.  They are remarkable in their colour and figure arrangements and together they capture the spirit of the Thirties. He subsisted on a few hours teaching a week.  He had no studio and often painted in his small bedroom in the family council house on the Wren’s Nest.

Second World War

When the Second World War broke out, Percy continued to paint with even more determination. Even after he was called up for the navy, he painted. He was doing special work in a naval shore establishment at Roedean School near Brighton.  He went for a walk alone on the cliffs but was killed by a stray German bomb.