Who Lives in the House on the Hill?, 1976

by Brian 'Braaq' Shields

£25,000

MEDIUM: Oil on board
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 13.8 x 17.5 inches (35 x 44.5 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed, inscribed, and dated (lower left); titled (verso)

Like with the majority of his oeuvre, in Who Lives in the House on the Hill? Shields has created a very atmospheric work. Using a simple palette of largely grey, white, brown and black the artist has recreated the dull, cold ambient light of a winter’s day and the fogginess of the industrial North.

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    As is typical with Shields, all of the action unfolds along the horizontal of the painting, distorting any sense of natural perspective, a technique which he often used. This concentrates the viewer’s eyes on the children playing in the foreground, a memory of the artist’s childhood. As it typical of Shields, he has painted his childhood self into the scene in a striped jumper.

    The somewhat simplistic and highly stylised method Shields has employed to paint the figures in this work is reminiscent of Laurence Stephen Lowry ‘stick men’. Combined with the plain palette this painting reminds the viewer of Lowry’s depictions of Manchester and Salford. Interestingly, the Liverpool Echo went so far as to name Shields the “Liverpool Lowry”.

    Provenance

    Private collection, UK

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    Biography

    Brian Shields was born in Liverpool in 1951, His father Dennis Shields was a highly regarded artist but on account of having twelve children was unable to support his family through painting alone. Brian’s eldest brother pursued a successful career in America as a sculptor.

    The unusual name of ‘Braaq’ is a misspelling of the famous French artist Braque which, on account of his artistic talent as a boy, was his nickname at school.

    Brian was discouraged from becoming a professional artist and after leaving school became a trainee chef in a somewhat drab hotel in Harrogate. In an attempt to brighten the place he painted a mural. This mural caused a great deal of interest in the area but as he had signed it ‘Braaq’, the true identity of the artist remained a mystery until a local journalist identified Brian Shields as the painter.

    From this point “Braaq” never looked back, holding his first exhibition in 1974. In 1977 he was invited to hold his first of four exhibitions in London’s West End. It was after this exhibition that ‘The Times’ described him as “one of the six most successful artists in England”.

    In 1997 at the age of 46 Brian died, leaving a contribution to the art world which ranks him among the leading artists in the United Kingdom.

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