In waiting for someone last week, I was able to catch up with our Norman Shaw exhibition in the Tennant Gallery, which has been open for a while. But I missed the opening. It shows the quality of his work and his commitment to drawing as a means of expression (I liked the comment which he added to a bad drawing done by someone in his office, ‘What hideous drawings ! Did anyone ever see such Vulgar looking things – I am quite ashamed of them’).
There is no mention of the fact that Shaw trained as an architect in the Royal Academy Schools under C.R.Cockerell, winning the silver medal in 1852 and the gold medal the year after. His first commission was to design a house for an RA, John Callcott Horsley, in Kent, and he designed studio houses for Luke Fildes and Marcus Stone, in Melbury Road. In 1872, he became an ARA and a full RA in 1877. He was elected as Treasurer in 1881, taking over from G.E. Street, but served for only three weeks, handing over to J.C. Horsley, the first non-architect in the post. This did not prevent him from being appointed to design the new Refreshment Room, now the restaurant, together with a staircase connecting it to new exhibition galleries above, now the large and small Weston Rooms, originally designed as a Watercolour Gallery and the Black and White Gallery for ink drawings and prints. He was also responsible for the design of the new Architectural Room, now the Academicians’ Room, but retaining some of the characteristics of a Shaw interior, including the plasterwork decoration: