Austin Shaw - From The Salvation Army To Stardom

By Andy Shield

Austin Shaw - From The Salvation Army To Stardom

We've discovered a rare portrait by English painter, Austin Shaw. It depicts an attractive young lady wearing a beautifully embroidered dress along with a matching sheer top and a pearl necklace.

Austin Shaw, led a fascinating life that began in England and ended in Pasadena, California. As a young man, he joined the Salvation Army and had ambitions to become a professional artist. During his time in England, he painted the founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, which helped to propel his career. And before too long, his talent was spotted and he was asked to move to Canada to develop his skills.

From here, he established several studios in major Cities and was recognised as a leading light during the early 20th-century. One of his portraits, of The Hon. Sir William Howard (Premier of Ontario, 1914-19) is held in the Ontario collection.

Sometime after 1920, he relocated to Pasadena with his wife, Ethel, but continued to travel for his art. In December 1930, which is three months after this portrait had been completed, he’s mentioned in a piece by The Honolulu Advertiser (see below for the full article).

It explains:

“Two citizens of the world who call London or Montreal, New York or San Fransisco home, Mr and Mrs Shaw, find many friends wherever they happen to tarry for a season.”

“Shaw is a famous portrait painter and he is to execute important commissions while he enjoys what calls a real vacation”.

It goes on to explain that he married into a notable family:

“It was in Canada that the young painter gained early recognition and there he married a member of one of the most distinguished families. Mrs Shaw, always a social favorite, doubtless has contributed much to the success of the artist.”

It also describes his ability to capture a likeness: “Mr Shaw proved that he could model a woman’s head with rare delicacy and could present beauty most remarkably.”

Towards the end of his life, Shaw painted many celebrities including actress, Irene Dunne (1898-1990) and opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960). These were painted around a similar time to ours so it’s likely that this young lady was also painted in Pasadena.

Could she be an aspiring actress? Or a singer perhaps? If you recognise the face, do let us know…