SHIRLOW, John Alexander Thomas (1869-1936)

SHIRLOW, John Alexander Thomas (1869-1936)
always known as John Shirlow
was born at Sunbury, Victoria, on 13 December 1869. His father, Robert Shirlow, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, had come from Ireland and followed many occupations in the new land without much success. His mother was formerly Miss Rebecca Flanagan. Shirlow was educated at various state schools and Scotch College, Melbourne, and went to work first at Haase Duffus and Company, printers, and then in 1889 with Sands and McDougall. He began attending evening classes at the national gallery in 1890 and continued there for five years. Towards the end of his course, influenced largely by the Rembrandt and Whistler prints at the Melbourne national gallery, he began to practise etching. His difficulties were great for he had to make his own press and correct his own mistakes. His first plate was etched in 1895 and he continued his craft until the end of his life. Most of his work is pure etching, but he did a few aquatints and mezzotints. In 1913 he joined the electric supply department of the Melbourne city council, he had studied electricity at the Melbourne technical school, and he also began to act as an examiner in drawing for the public examinations of the university of Melbourne. In 1917 a small volume, Etchings by John Shirlow, with reproductions of 25 of his plates was published at Sydney, and had a large sale. This was followed in 1920 by The Etched Work of John Shirlow, with a biography, by R. H. Croll, and a chronological list of 89 of his prints. In 1922 he was made a trustee of the public library, museums and national gallery of Victoria, and soon afterwards became drawing master at Scotch College, Melbourne. In 1932 he published Perspective, a Text Book for the use of Schools. He died on 22 June 1936. He married in 1895, Grace Nixon, who survived him with four children. A bronze head of Shirlow by C. Web Gilbert (q.v.) is in the trustees' room at the national gallery, Melbourne.
Shirlow was a man of medium height with a fine rugged head, strong prejudices, and a kindly and generous disposition. He was interested in music and literature and did a fair amount of journalism on artistic subjects. In his etchings he was not a great draughtsman, but his buildings are solidly drawn and his masses well arranged. He was less successful in his figure work. He is represented at the British Museum, the national galleries of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, and at Stockholm, Bendigo, Geelong and Castlemaine. The finest collection is at the Mitchell library, Sydney, which has practically all of his important prints. Though a few earlier men had experimented in etching, Shirlow will always be remembered as the first man in Australia to do work in this medium with any distinction.
R. H. Croll, The Etched Work of John Shirlow; The Argus, 23 and 27 June 1936; W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Shirlow — /ˈʃɜloʊ/ (say sherloh) noun John Alexander Thomas, 1869–1936, Australian etcher …  

  • John Shirlow — John Alexander Thomas Shirlow (1869 – 1936) was an Australian artist. He was born at Sunbury, Victoria, on 13 December 1869. His father, Robert Shirlow, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, had come from Ireland and followed many occupations in …   Wikipedia

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