DISTINGUISHED DELAWARE ARTIST
OF THE 19TH CENTURY
Had Robert Shaw not have had rheumatic fever while attending Shellpot School in New Castle county Delaware, the world probably would have been deprived of his art, the etchings and paintings of local scenes and structures, and the beauty of Brandywine Creek.
Here is his story, gathered from Wilmington Delaware newspaper articles from the “Man About Town' column, his 1912 obituaries, items by Mr. Charles Green of Carrcroft, over a period of several years.
Robert Shaw as born to David and Anne Shaw the 10th of January 1859 at Rockwood in Brandywine Hundred , New Castle county, the country home of Joseph H. Shipley along the Shellpot Creek, where David, his father, born on Scotland' west coast, came to America in 1852, was a caretaker and coachman for the Shipley's Rockwood Estate. In 1870 records show he had an older brother by one year, John, another brother the same age , 11, name William, not a twin but born the same year, a sister Margaret, age 9, brother David, age 7, and a baby sister, Mary Shaw, age 5.
While within the walls of the school at Shellpot , young Robert was being taught rudiments of an English education when a severe attack of rheumatism greatly disabled him from further education and ability to work on the estates farm.
Bed fast with the illness, Robert Shaw, began to draw on anything that came to his hands, his natural talent being recognized and encouraged by his family and visitors such as Dr. George C. Hall rector of St. Johns Church , a close friend and frequent visitor. He took up pen and ink etching, latter the etching of copper plates, he had no instructors, using his own skills and aptitudes to paint local scenes and buildings which became historic value. After a trip to Europe, France and England, in 1898, he returned to America and established a studio at the Old Penny Hill Farm, in a wagon house , where his mother and sisters , and he, had lived since their youth.
From the Penney Hill studio, working under great physical disability, came etchings and drawings of buildings and homes of the Colonial and Revolutionary period in Delaware. He again went abroad in the late 1890's and did pen and ink etchings in England. Upon returning this time he was engaged by a New York publishing company to do a series of 65 houses located from Virginia into New England, which found him traveling in his special built carriage. It was while doing this work that he lost his sight due to the strain of his etching works. Four years later he regained eyesight and turned to water color and oils, painting pictures of all the historic buildings in Delaware, setting this as his goal.
A favorite site was the Brandywine Creek and the etchings and paintings from there are some of his best. While painting the picture of the home of Judge Edward G. Bradford along the Brandywine, he died the 18th of July, 1912. Shaw never married and is survived by his mother, Mrs Anne Shaw, his sisters, Margaret an Anne, Mrs C. W. Bryan of New Rochelle, New York, brothers David and William. Artisit Robert Shaw is buried in Riverview Cemetery, Wilmington, Delaware.
Source: Wilmington News Journal, January 11, 1949 Man About Town.