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George Shirlaw 1934-2005

Every now and then we come across a painter whose work is very interesting and somewhat different, but at the same time familiar. We have a small collection of paintings in our current sale (lots 258-262) from a collector of the work of George Shirlaw, a genuine character. George started life with an incredibly traumatic experience, he witnessed his father being decapitated and his mother tortured and killed by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. He was saved by an airman, who took him to Australia to see out the war.

John Bratby

After the war, he returned to Britain and joined the RAF, which gave him great opportunities to travel round the world picking up ideas and especially colour. Fairly soon in his career he met and socialised with then the most famous artist in Britain, John Bratby. They used to meet at the Clarendon or the Royal Standard, meetings that George suggested were rather boisterous. By then George was painting in a fashion very similar to Bratby, though much more colourful. Bratby’s colourful period came later as a consequence of his affair with Diane and the break up of his marriage. George asserted that their work at times was considered to be indistinguishable. Bratby painted a good portrait of George, and George painted a portrait of himself and Bratby, both illustrated below.


George’s draughtmanship is shown very well in the paintings we have for sale, especially in his drawing skills. There is a very large painting of Chrysanthemums, a dramatic piece of painting and several pictures of his wife, Tess, very colourful and strong. His work is held in some good collections - the British Museum, the Duke of Bedford’s Collection and Louisiana State University.

George is an artist whose work I will watch to see what else comes on the market. I have thoroughly enjoyed the examples we have for this auction.

If you have any paintings you would like to have valued, please contact Jonathan Riley of Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.