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William Charles Penn was born and raised in London, got a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools and also studied in Paris. He was exhibiting seriously from the beginning of the 20th century and was soon elected to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He served with distinction in the First World War, receiving the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry, and narrowly avoided injury that would probably have ruined his painting career.
He taught several generations of painters at Liverpool School of Art between 1911 and 1946 and dominated the art scene in Wirral by force of his personality, in effect founding the Wirral Society of Arts in 1948. For many years he was the portrait painter of choice in the Merseyside area and town halls and board rooms around the region contain his work. He stayed in Birkenhead because of his family, but it is widely thought that if he had moved back to London he would have become one of the great names of British painting.
Penn was a consummate artist, turning his hand with considerable skill to anything he wished to address. In January, we will look at his oil paintings, chiefly family subjects and commissioned portraits and also landscapes as he painted while on holiday because it was unthinkable not to paint at all. This first selection of works perfectly compliment Steve des Landes figurative work and James Deegan’s photographic portraits on show in the gallery at the same time. Later in 2018, we will exhibit his watercolours and drawings, prints and sculpture. To view more of his work online from our collection and from other public collections across Britain, go to the fabulous ART UK website.
Please note that the galleries are open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm, but staff shortages may necessitate early closure of some rooms at the end of the day.