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 John David Shaw  (1923 - 1966)

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Lived/Active: Texas/Maryland/District Of Columbia      Known for: natural history, evolution, animal

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John David Shaw
An example of work by John David Shaw
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted April 2004, is from Polly Moran, niece of the artist, who inherited the estate collection.

My Uncle John David Shaw, and my mother,(John's sister) Mary Helen Shaw Dunkle were born in Hico, Texas, the hometown of his father, James Alexander Shaw. They all lived in a rural area near Hico with my Grandfathers parents, who were very devout Scotch Protestants. They had a little gas station, and they grew all of their own food. They had very little money and relied on each other for any kind of entertainment. It was a very restricted environment. My Grandfather was very strict and was like a walking encyclopedia; he was not very connected with his kids, but my Grandmother, was a cut-up, and because of this my mother and uncle had a wild sense of humor.

My mom, used to say she would be at the movies and all of a sudden you could hear my Uncle John, laughing so hard at the movie when no one else was. He was extremely close to my Grandmother (his mother) who sewed beautifully, and made all of their clothes including my Grandfathers suits. She was very creative and could even make her own patterns. My Grandfather was extremely well educated and after practicing law with his law firm, he became a Judge. He was the trial examiner for the National Relations Labor Board in Washington D.C.

John Shaw was an Army Veteran of World Was II. When he returned home he went through a very dark period and got involved with the Salvation Army. He finally began to come out of this period and pursued an Art Career. He studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and also at the Columbia Art School in Washington DC. He worked for five years at the U.S. Naval Photographic Center, and from there he was hired as as Artist for the Museum of Natural History.

He was in charge of the "Evolution of Man" department and painted all of the backgrounds depicting varying cultures of people and the evolving of the human race throughout history. In his painting his subject matter is hard to categorize because he was wide ranging including the creation story of Adam and Eve, clowns, whimsical cats, pirates, and subjects with religious undertones.

Shaw was influenced by the works of Salvadore Dali, MichelAngelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Toulouse Lautrec, and Greek art. He also was studying Modern Art, Cubisim and loved to find pieces of driftwood and diferent shapes of rocks, which he would turn into whimsical faces. One in paticular, a Foot, we used to use as a door stop. He loved all forms of art and loved to go to junk stores to find old frames that he would incorporate with his finished pieces and add the colors of his paintings on to the frames.

During this period of time, John had purchased a home in Hyattsville, Maryland with my grandparents (his parents) and turned the entire basement into an apartment and studio. He was the most prolific at this stage of his life and I believe the happiest. He was working in Maryland with other artists on the Topographical Globe of the World and was planning a One-Man Show at the Oleny Theatre when he died suddenly of a heart attack on June 15th 1966.

He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, next to my Grandparents. He never married, and his only sibling was my mother, Mary Helen Shaw Dunkle, who died in 1995.

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