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The collection at Shaw's Corner

Pictures, books and other objects above the mantelpiece in the study at Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire
Pictures, books and other objects above the mantelpiece in the study at Shaw's Corner | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Home to world-famous and highly influential playwright George Bernard Shaw for 44 years from 1906 to 1950, Shaw's Corner's collection is as varied and interesting as the man who once lived here. See the artefacts that Bernard Shaw, and his wife Charlotte, held dear – both everyday items and literary mementos. These include a bronze bust of Shaw, created by sculptor Auguste Rodin – now one of the National Trust’s 125 treasures.

A home of loved objects

Author, critic, wit and political activist. Shaw's long and active life is reflected in the objects that he surrounded himself with at home in Shaw's Corner, in the middle of the Hertfordshire countryside.

Many of these important collection items can be seen on a visit to Shaw Corner, including Shaw's collection of hats, his suits and memorabilia from stage and screen.

Man and cameraman

Shaw was not only a prolific playwright, writer, commentator and thinker but an avid amateur photographer: taking and collecting images from the 1890s until his death in 1950.

Shaw's vast photographic archive of around 15,000 photographs, taken by himself and others, is stored at the London School of Economics. The majority of the items have been catalogued and digitised and you can search the collection online.

Bronze bust of George Bernard Shaw by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), dating from 1906, standing in the Drawing Room at Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire.
Bronze bust of George Bernard Shaw by Auguste Rodin | © National Trust Images/Oskar Proctor

Auguste Rodin's bust of Shaw

In 1906 the renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin was commissioned to make a bust of George Bernard Shaw by Shaw’s wife Charlotte. Charlotte persuaded Rodin to take tea with her and her husband at their London home, where the possibility of commissioning a bust was discussed.

Two versions were ordered, one in bronze and one in marble. The bronze sculpture accurately depicts Shaw’s appearance, while also suggesting the vitality of his presence.

The bronze bust was kept in the study of Shaw’s London flat before being transferred to Shaw’s Corner in 1945, after the property was gifted to the National Trust. The marble bust was often loaned out to exhibitions before being donated to Hugh Lane, who displayed it in his Dublin City Gallery, where it can still be viewed today.

'If the bust’s nose was too long, he sliced a bit out of it, and jammed the tip of it up to close the gap, with no more emotion or affectation than a glazier putting in a window pane… Yet a succession of miracles took place as he worked… It was a process for the embryologist to study, not the aesthete. Rodin’s hand worked, not as a sculptor’s hand works, but as the Life Force works.'

- George Bernard Shaw on Rodin's technique

Admiration and friendship

Shaw had great respect and admiration for Rodin’s skill as a sculptor, considering him to be a modern-day Michelangelo. After donating his home to the National Trust, he joked that Rodin’s bust would be remembered 1,000 years hence, while its subject would be ‘otherwise unknown’.

The commission of Shaw’s bust was the start of an important friendship between the two men, which lasted until Rodin’s death in 1917.

Pictures, books and other objects above the mantelpiece in the study at Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire

Shaw's Corner's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Shaw's Corner on the National Trust Collections website.

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