Ever since studying a module in Literature and Politics in the 1930s for my degree last year, I have been fascinated by the decade. Its dismal energy, situated between two World Wars and amongst the fallout of the Great Depression allowed for significant and notable art and literature, with Graham Greene, George Orwell, Walter Greenwood and Terence Rattigan as particular favourite authors.
In an exhibition I visited at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, I came across the artist Percy Shakespeare. Hailed as ‘one of Dudley’s most famous artistic sons’ the Birmingham-born painter carved a successful career out of a disadvantaged, working-class background in the slums of the West Midlands. Much of his work – including figure drawings and oil portraits – show the ‘Thirties at Leisure’, with people, colours and composition catching the spirit of the Thirties. He was killed in 1943 after a stint in the Royal Navy, leaving behind work which is now on show at the Dudley Museum and Art Gallery.