Percy Shakespeare, “The Tennis Player”

Tennis invented so that women and men could play together. Conversation, competition . . . The development of women’s fashion, the body freed from Victorian hoop skirts so it might chase down more balls. Legs for running or for showing off?

Feminist or feminine? Traditional or Daring? Married or single? Beautiful or plain? The woman or the painting? Karl Marx or Adam Smith? Public or private courts?

Respected or objectified or sexualized? Controlled by the male artist’s gaze or freed by the sport she plays?

Artist Bio (from Wikipedia):

Shakespeare was born in 1906 in the working class area of Kates Hill, Dudley, the fourth of eight children[1] of John Thomas Shakespeare and his wife Ada.[2] His family subsequently moved to council housing in the nearby Wren’s Nest Estate area.[1] In 1920, after a chance meeting at the Dudley Museum and Art Gallery with Ivo Shaw, the principal of Dudley Art School,[1] he was offered a scholarship place at the school for his eight years attendance[1] where he showed a talent for figure drawing and portraits. Eventually he attended Birmingham School of Art and studied anatomical drawing under Harold Holden[1] from 1923 to 1927,[1] achieving an Art Masters Certificate in Anatomical Drawing,[1] and qualifying as a teacher. He then taught part-time up to 1939, mostly at Birmingham Art School and occasionally at Kidderminster College.[1]

For the rest of his life he continued to paint with a view to making that his career and produced a number of paintings each year (mainly in oil) that were submitted to the Royal Academy, and often accepted for exhibition. In 1933 he produced his most controversial painting, a self-portrait in which, it has been suggested, he is posing as the demonic figure Mephistopheles.[3] In the same year, he had his first exhibit at the Royal Academy, “A Mulatto”, a portrait of a lady which was later bought by Dudley Art Gallery. 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] During this period, he was living in the family council house on the Wren’s Nest. Despite his success at having his paintings included in prestigious exhibitions, few of them sold and his only significant income was from his teaching. He had no studio and often painted in his small bedroom. [4]

When World War II broke out in 1939, he enlisted[1] in the Royal Navy, and trained at HMS Vernon[1] while continuing to paint in his spare time. In May 1943, whilst stationed ashore at Roedean School[1] in East Sussex, he was killed in a bombing raid while he was walking alone opposite Marine Gate in Brighton.[1]

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