Charles Shannon born 26 April 1865 (d. 1937)
Charles Haslewood Shannon, English artist, was born at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, the son of the Rev Frederic Shannon.
He attended the Lambeth school of art, and was subsequently considerably influenced by his friend and partner Charles Ricketts and by the example of the great Venetians. In his early work he was addicted to a heavy low tone, which he abandoned subsequently for clearer and more transparent colour. He achieved great success with his portraits and his Giorgionesque figure compositions, which are marked by a classic sense of style, and with his etchings and lithographic designs.
The Dublin Municipal Gallery owns his circular composition The Bunch of Grapes and The Lady with the Green Fan (portrait of Mrs Hacon). His Study in Grey is at the Munich Gallery, a Portrait of Mr Staats Forbes at Bremen, and a Souvenir of Van Dyck at Melbourne. One of his most remarkable pictures is The Toilet of Venus in the collection of Lord Northcliffe. Several of his portrait works are on display in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Shannon taught himself lithography, realising that lithography could be used for original artistic expression, not merely as a means of reproducing images. Shannon's skill was such that he was described as 'one of the most gracefully accomplished and scholarly lithographers of the day'. He is regarded in particular as the master of lithographic portraiture.
Complete sets of his lithographs and etchings have been acquired by the British Museum and the Berlin and Dresden print rooms. He was awarded a first-class gold medal at Munich in 1895 and a first-class silver medal in Paris in 1900.
Shannon and Ricketts founded The Dial, a magazine, which had five issues from 1889 to 1897, and the Vale Press, named after their house, The Vale, in Chelsea, London. The pair came to the attention of Oscar Wilde with the publication of their magazine. He visited them at their home and they become great friends. Ricketts and Shannon were among the few to remain faithful to Wilde when he was disgraced.
Throughout their careers Shannon and Ricketts were collectors of art and over time built up a valuable collection. Charles Shannon was particularly interested in Japanese art and they bought a number of Hokusai drawings. In their joint will they left their collection to public bodies such as the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the British Museum.
Charles Shannon was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1911 and a full member in 1920.
In January 1929 Shannon was re-hanging some pictures on the staircase of his studio when he fell and hit his head on the marble floor. From then on he was a physical and mental invalid, and unable to recognise and communicate with Charles Ricketts. Charles Ricketts died of a heart attack two years later, and Charles Shannon lived for a further six years.
Shannon and Ricketts spent their entire adults lives together but were very discreet as a couple. It is generally accepted that Charles Ricketts was a homosexual but there are those who believe that Shannon was bisexual. One particular friendship with a woman caused an anxious Ricketts to record in his diary his fears that Shannon might marry.
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