Museum Treasures: A Burslem Boy
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery has a long tradition of exhibiting and supporting local artists. One such artist is John Shelton (1923-1993), two of his paintings are held in the museum’s permanent fine art collection. Shelton studied at the Burslem School of Art along with fellow students, Arthur Berry and Norman Cope. In 1944 he won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London. Whilst in London Shelton shared lodgings with Berry who was attending the Royal College of Art. It was at the Slade School that Shelton met Robert MacBryde, a member of the London Group of artists, who also included L.S Lowry amongst others. Founded in 1913, the London Group was an artist-led independent exhibition body. It was formed in order counter-balance the domination of institutions such as the Royal Academy of Arts. The group was undoubtedly influential upon the development of Shelton’s oeuvre, which is distinguished by its expressionistic figurative subjects, such as Clown Resting shown on the left. Though arguably his best-known work is the series known as the Cat and Table paintings, one of which we have in the museum collection, seen below.
Shelton eventually returned to the Potteries where he became a designer of Staffordshire china. In 1957 he began teaching at the Newcastle Art School, a post he held until his retirement in 1983. Interest in the work of mid-20th-century northern artists has grown in recent years with the Tate holding a retrospective exhibition of Lowry’s work in 2013, and work by Shelton has been sold in sales at Christies, London alongside work by Sir Matthew Smith, also an alumnus of the Slade School of Art.