"An able revivalist in his own person of the Pre-Raphaelite school" - Magazine of Art.
Byam Shaw was a late follower of the Pre-Raphaelites, and was especially influenced by John William Waterhouse. He was born in India (his father was a legal official), the family returning to England in 1878 or 1879. Both parents encouraged him in art as a child, only giving him the most decorative books, and surrounding him only with that which was beautiful. From 1880 he was tutored by J. A. Vintner, until 1887 when his father died. His mother, keen for Byam Shaw to continue painting although the rest of the family opposed the idea, arranged for him to be taken to see John Millais, who advised that the young man should immediately start working towards a studentship at the Royal Academy Schools. To this end, he studied at St John's Wood School for two years, and was then able to enter the Academy Schools in 1890. He studied there until 1892, and then shared a studio with the artist Gerald Metcalfe. Later, together with Vicat Cole, he founded a school of art in Kensington. Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale later taught at this school.
Byam Shaw painted pictures inspired directly by the Pre-Raphaelites, commencing with his first picture exhibited at the Royal Academy, Rose Marie (1893), taken from a Rossetti poem, as was We Too, She Said (1895) (from The Blessed Damozel).More symbolist works include Whither (1896), showing a couple, the woman asleep in the arms of the man, who stares at the sea-maidens of his imagination flocked around the boat. He also painted portraits. He was a strong designer, and did many book illustrations after being encouraged in black-and-white work by the artist Gerald Moira, whom he met while at the Academy Schools. He contributed to the magazine Comic Cuts, and then many children's books for Cassells, and became one of the foremost illustrators of his time. However, much of his illustrated work is in colour in the cheaper, poorer-quality reproduction books.
Two of his paintings, Jezebel (1896) and The Prodigal's Return, are at the Russell-Cotes Museum, Bournemouth. Love's Baubles (1897), a most decorative picture with jewel-like colours, is at the Walker Art Gallery. In Austalia, The Comforter is in the Adelaide Art Gallery.
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