Horatio W. Shaw (1847-1918)
Born in Dover Township, six miles west of Adrian, Michigan, Shaw began working as a clerk in Adrian when he was eighteen years old. In 1869 he went West, and in time became the proprietor of a hardware store in White Cloud, Kansas. He had been interested in drawing since childhood, but it was not until 1879 that he decided to pursue art seriously.
Shaw left Kansas to study with Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine arts in Philadelphia. Much of his work there was portraiture and landscapes. He also visited art galleries and attended art sales in that city. Shaw returned to Michigan and to his wife and child in 1882 to assist his father in the management of the 200-acre farm. He continued painting but sold little of his work. Although the responsibilities of managing a farm increased, it was only a secondary interest for Shaw. There was one aspect of the farm which became his primary and almost sole interest. This was the sheep. He took pride in his Merino sheep: they were his only real models – most of his paintings were drawn from observations which he stored in his mind. He would then turn these stored observations into visual impressions.
Although he corresponded for a while with friends from the Pennsylvania Academy and even submitted works to several of its exhibitions (only one of which was accepted), he became artistically isolated. He would occasionally visit the annual exhibitions in Detroit; other than this, he rarely left the Adrian area.
Shaw’s style is crisp, detailed and exhibits a sensitive understanding of the subject. His sympathetic record of farm life and local landscape portrays an idyllic, almost poetic isolated life with charming simplicity and directness. His later landscapes are usually smaller and treated in a softened, subtler manner. He contributed to few exhibitions during his lifetime, but he did exhibit in Detroit and in a New York gallery. Shaw has had two posthumous exhibitions of his work; the first in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1940 and the second at the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. in 1974.
Biographical information from the exhibition catalog: Early Michigan Paintings, Michigan State University, 1976.
Submitted by Edward Bentley, researcher from Lansing, Michigan