Also known as
Roderick Malcolm Shaw
Artist (Cartoonist / Illustrator),
Designer (Graphic Designer)
Rod Shaw was a dominant figure in the left wing Studio of Realist Art in the 1950s while also being half of the progressive publisher, Edwards & Shaw which printed both the banned book The Trial of Lady Chatterely and the Art Gallery of New South Wales' catalogues. He was also well known as a painter,graphic artist, and cartoonist.
painter, graphic artist, cartoonist and printer, was born on 17 September 1915 at Drummoyne, Sydney. After helping milk cows on his parents’ farm at the beginning of the Depression, he served an apprenticeship as a commercial artist during the Depression then studied at East Sydney Technical College [ESTC] in the late 1930s. He helped form the Windsor Group, which painted landscapes around Windsor (see catalogue) and married actress Frances Cottingham. After about four years in the RAAF (at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory, acc. Fox), he exhibited in the 'Australia at War’ exhibition (National Gallery of Victoria, 1945), winning a first prize for one of his paintings of Civil Construction Workers.
A member of the Communist Party of Australia, Rod Shaw was one of the founders of the Studio of Realist Art [SORA] in 1945, a body set up partly in dissatisfaction with the Contemporary Art Society (which had sided against Dobell in the 1944 Archibald Prize case). He was most active in its public programs; he showed work at the annual exhibitions, wrote and published its regular bulletins, organised art classes and taught drawing to interested Waterside Workers. After the war, with Dick Edwards, he founded the publishing company of Edwards & Shaw, which produced some of the finest art and poetry books seen in Australia; one of the last was James Mollison’s Fred Williams Etchings . It also published, for the Council of Civil Liberties, the banned report of the English trial of Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover . He was also on the editorial board of Helen Palmer’s democratic-socialist journal Outlook , for which he drew cartoons and other humorous illustrations (Fox).
Despite having little time for painting, Shaw painted Cable Layers for the 1946 NSW Travelling Art Scholarship. He did not win, but after the oil was shown at SORA that year it was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 1947 (with Nan Hortin , John Oldham and Kevin Lynch ) he participated in the Australian section of the British Empire Exhibition at the Royal Easter Show, painting portraits of Henry Lawson, John Macarthur and Peter Lalor. His Pyrmont Washing (originally titled Washing Out, White Bay Cutting ) of 1948 was exhibited in that year’s SORA show (ill. Merewether). In the early 1950s he and others (including Hortin) began painting a large mural in the Waterside Workers Federation offices depicting the story of the Labor Movement from the 1890s strikes onwards.
By the mid-1970s Shaw’s own paintings had turned more towards figurative abstraction, but he produced little because he was increasingly involved in publishing and teaching. He contributed articles and illustrations to Overland , eg 'Dear Stephen’ no. 56 (Spring 1973), 23. Later he taught at Sydney University’s Tin Sheds and at ESTC. He died in December 1992 (see obit. Sydney Morning Herald , 8 December).
The Roderick Shaw collection of commercial illustrations, art posters and cartoons 1940-90 (Mitchell Library PXD 836) includes his business card; three pen drawings of Bathurst Island people, one dated 1942; drawings for magazines articles, stories and festivals; prints; four Aboriginal designs by Aboriginal artists in an A4 envelope (presumably 1942); four sketchbooks and loose leaves from sketchbooks; 13 political cartoons by 'Schweik’ (a pseudonym) and four other b/w drawings.