I’ve written here about how uncertain the future is for any artist’s legacy. I usually point out that how one’s work fares in the next few generations and beyond is out of the artist’s hands. I can cite example after example of artists who have created brilliant work in their time yet whose names and images remain relatively unknown in this time. Their work often goes for relatively little at auctions and is seldom spoken of, yet it is nonetheless beautiful and moving.
One fine example is John Liston Byam Shaw ( most often known as simply Byam Shaw) who was a British artist and illustrator who lived from 1872 until 1919, dying in the influenza epidemic after the first World War at the relatively young age of 46.
Heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, Shaw produced what I consider a large and gorgeous body of work. It is wide in the scope of its themes and imagery and when I look at the Google Images page there is one after another of just great paintings.
The image shown here on the right, Boer War, is perhaps his best known painting. It a war painting without the actual imagery of war, depicting the sense of loss and despair felt by those loved ones who survive the fallen.
A more obvious reference to the aftermath of war is shown in the painting at the top of this page in The Flag, a memorial piece done at the end of WW I. I am really drawn to the use of color and tone in this painting. Just a wonderful painting.
There are so many more that I have selected just a few that struck me. If you look for yourself I am sure you will find some others that will do the same for you. One of the paintings shown below, the first at the top of this group , a watercolor titled The Ballad of Luther, went to auction in the last few years and didn’t even draw an opening bid of less than $900.
As I said, legacy is out of the hands of the artist. All they can do is to make an effort to produce work that fills their own need for expression and emotion. I think Byam Shaw definitely did this and that is enough, especially for those fortunate enough to find his work.