Art at the SIL: John Uzzell Edwards

You may have noticed the two impressionistic oil paintings in the Stanley Wells Room and wondered about their connection with Shakespeare and the Library. They are the work of artist John Uzzell Edwards and were specially commissioned for the Shakespeare Institute Library by Doreen Brockbank, in memory of her husband Philip Brockbank, Director of the Shakespeare Institute 1978-88.

John Uzzell Edwards (1934-2014) was a Welsh painter who specialized in the industrial landscapes of South Wales early in his career before exploring Celtic forms and taking inspiration from medieval tiles, Pictish knots and illuminated manuscripts. You can see some of his paintings at the BBC site http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/john-uzzell-edwards-5893.

His Welsh patriotism explains his choice of Owain Glyndwr as the subject for our first painting – ‘When I was born…’ (next to the AV Room door) which was created for the new Library in 1995. It refers to the line ‘I say the earth did shake when I was born’ from Henry IV, part 1.

Painting When I was bornIf you look carefully you can see words hidden in the paint including ‘Philip’, ‘Doreen’, ‘Owain Glyndwr’, ‘When I was born’, ‘The earth did shake’ and ‘For Phil’.

The second painting – ‘Once more unto the breach’ was also donated by Doreen Brockbank to hang in the newly opened Stanley Wells Room in 1999.

Painting Once more unto the breachPhilip Brockbank founded the English Department at the University of York before coming to Stratford to become the Institute’s third director. He began the series of volumes of actors’ essays – Players of Shakespeare – and founded the New Cambridge Shakespeare series and the New Mermaids. A portrait of him hangs in the Reading Room.

Kate Welch, Information Assistant

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