George Shaw: My Back to Nature

Press Release George Shaw: My Back to Nature
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
13 January – 11 March 2017

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is delighted to launch the national tour of George Shaw: My Back to Nature following its presentation at the National Gallery, London.  In 2014, George Shaw was invited by the National Gallery to become the ninth Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist. Shaw began regularly visiting the National Gallery in the 1980s, when he was still a teenager, bringing a sketchbook to draw from those paintings he found most interesting.

The work in this exhibition has been inspired by various mythological woodland landscapes by artists such as Titian and Poussin. Shaw is interested in how their stories – often featuring violence, illicit sex and drunkenness – have parallels in the way that people might behave in the woods today, when they think they are unobserved. This is complemented by Shaw’s interest in Christian imagery, especially how landscape artists of the past often alluded to the Crucifixion in their depiction of trees.

Abbot Hall has a national reputation for presenting the work of artists deeply engaged with the landscape tradition.  To accompany this exhibition there is also a display of three works from the National Gallery’s collection, selected by George Shaw specially to coincide with his show at Abbot Hall. Each work inspired Shaw’s residency and creative output during this period.

“George Shaw is the kind of painter Britain does best, a close observer who on this evidence has the sharp eye of a Freud or Hockney. He’s still in his 40s. Can’t wait to see his work when he is 80.”
Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

“It casts light on Titian. It casts light on the National Gallery. It even casts light - of a murky, Coventry intensity - on what art is supposed to do. Add all that up and you have a profound achievement.”
Waldemar Januszczak, The Sunday Times

George Shaw was born in 1966. He graduated with an MA from the Royal College of Art in 1998 and in 2011 was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, for his paintings of suburban landscapes set around his childhood home of Coventry. These were all painted in Humbrol enamel paint, a medium that he still uses, rather than the traditional oil.

A 15 minute film about George Shaw and the making of his new paintings is shown continuously in the projection room at the end of the exhibition.

The exhibition catalogue, George Shaw: My Back to Nature, is available from the shop, price £20.

Lakeland Arts would like to thank George Shaw for his support.
All works by George Shaw. Courtesy: The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London
Exhibition organised by the National Gallery, London


Editors Notes


George Shaw was born in 1966 in Coventry. He studied Fine Art at Sheffield Polytechnic from 1986 to 1989 and gained an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art in London in 1998.

Solo exhibitions have included: Looking for Baz. Shaz. Gaz and Daz, Void, Derry (2010); Woodsman, Wilkinson Gallery, London (2009); The End of the World, Galerie Hussenot, Paris (2008); A Day for a Small Poet, Clough Hanson Gallery, Rhodes College, Memphis, USA (2007) Poets Day, Centre d ‘Art Contemporain, Geneva (2006); Ash Wednesday, Wilkinson Gallery, London (2005), and What I did this Summer, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2003).

He has participated in group shows in London at White Cube, Tate Britain, Whitechapel Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), and the Jerwood Gallery. Internationally he has exhibited at Gladstone Gallery, New York, Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, City Art Gallery, Prague, Ex Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico, and Fabian & Claude Walter Galerie, Basel. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2011.


The Rootstein Hopkins Foundation Associate Artist Scheme enables leading contemporary artists to work with a collection of paintings that were made before 1900. The appointment is by invitation and is for a period of two years. The artist is given a studio in which to make new work that in some way connects to the National Gallery Collection. It is designed to demonstrate the continuing inspiration of the Old Master tradition on today's artists. George Shaw is the ninth Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist. For more information about the Foundation please visit 


Abbot Hall Art Gallery’s reputation for presenting ambitious temporary exhibitions complements its outstanding collection of historic, twentieth century and contemporary artworks. Lakeland Arts is one of the most significant arts and heritage organisations in the North of England with a national and international reputation for the quality of its historic buildings, museum and gallery collections and programming. It has a diverse portfolio of attractions: Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry in Kendal, Blackwell The Arts & Crafts House and, opening in 2017, Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats Steam and Stories in Bowness-on-Windermere. Abbot Hall and Blackwell are Grade 1 Listed Buildings.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Kendal, Cumbria LA9 5AL
Open Monday - Saturday, 10.30am - 5pm (4pm November - February)
Sundays throughout July and August, 12 - 4pm.
Adult admission £7 (without donation £6.35), free entry for students and children

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is the first venue for a nationwide tour of George Shaw: My back to Nature, organised by the National Gallery, London.  To accompany this exhibition there is also a display of three works from the National Gallery’s collection in the South Gallery at Abbot Hall, selected by George Shaw specially to coincide with his show at Abbot Hall.


Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal - (13 January – 11 March 2017)
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea - (25 March –18 June 2017)
The Civic, Barnsley - (29 July – 21 October 2017)
The Collection, Lincoln - (4 November 2017 – 14 January 2018)
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter - (27 January – 8 April 2018)
Southampton City Art Gallery - (4 May – 1 September 2018)

For further information, please contact:
The National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or email or
Lakeland Arts Press Office - Press visits, images and interviews contact:
Liz Moss on : 07788243837 or e-mail

  • George Shaw in front of ‘Möcht' ich zurücke wieder wanken’ (close up) © Courtesy: The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London / photo The National Gallery, London
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