Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863 – 1937) was English artist noted for his portraits which can now be found in important collections like The Tate and The National Portrait Gallery in London.
Shannon attended the Guilds of London Art School (formerly Lambeth School of Art) and was influenced by his lifelong partner Charles de Sousy Ricketts (1866 –1931) and the painters of the Venetian Renaissance. His portraits are marked by a classic sense of style.
Shannon became disabled in 1928 after a fall while hanging a picture, and the neurological damage caused by amnesia ended his career. He was cared for by his partner.
Ricketts was his equal, and if not as skilled at portraiture, maybe even more versatile than his partner. He worked as an painter, illustrator, writer and printer, book designer and typographer, and in the theatre as a set and costume designer.
Ricketts was born in Geneva to a French mother and an English father. He grew up mainly in France and Italy. He met Shannon when they were both students at Guilds of London Art School in 1882.
Together, the two artists founded The Dial, a magazine, which had five issues from 1889 to 1897, and Vale Press, named after their house, The Vale, in Chelsea, London.
The portrait (above ) of Ricketts by Shannon was painted two years after they started the press. It shows Rickettes slightly tentative in character. He liked it “...precisely because it shows him turning away from the 20th century to think only of the 15th“. It is labelled on the back “The Man in an Inverness Cloak”, but don’t try and touch it at the National Portrait Gallery!
Ricketts was one of two well-known illustrators of Oscar Wilde‘s work, along with Aubrey Beardsley (1872 -1898) who worked on Wilde’s Salomé. Ricketts and Shannon were friends and supporters of Wilde, whom Ricketts painted as Clouet, the hero of Wilde’s short story, The Portrait Of Mr. W. H.
It was in the work at the Vale Press that Ricketts found his talents best used. A total of about 75 books were produced, including a complete Shakespeare in 39 volumes, before their special type fonts were accidently destroyed.
Ricketts also wrote about art, was a collector, and a member of the Royal Academy and also a member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Engravers.
Ricketts also wrote on art, was a collector, and was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1922 and a full member in 1928. In 1929 he was appointed a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission.
Ricketts was a celebrated, sought-after designer for the stage. Plays he designed costumes and/or sets included Wilde’s Salome (1906), George Bernard Shaw‘s The Dark Lady (1910) and Saint Joan (1924), and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers and The Mikado for the D’Oyly Carte Company in the 1920s.
Shannon and Ricketts were a couple for nearly 50 years. Their ashes are buried together near Lake Maggiore in Switzerland.