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Shephard, Rupert Norman (1909–1992), painter and teacher, was born on 12 February 1909 at 53 Sotheby Road, Islington, London, the son of Quaker parents, William Henry Shephard, a mechanical and electrical engineer, and his wife, Alice Beck, a housewife and charity worker. Both parents were enthusiastic amateur artists, who encouraged Rupert and his elder sister, Stella, to paint. He was educated at Repton School (1922–6), and at the Slade School of Fine Art (1926–9) under the formidable Henry Tonks. Shephard flourished under Tonks's regime of strict academic draughtsmanship (later to stand him in good stead as a wartime industrial draughtsman) while taking in wider influences of continental painting to be found in West End galleries. Shephard was a tall and reserved man, whose years at the Slade were enlivened by visits to the bohemian homes of his fellow students Nicolette Macnamara, daughter of the Irish poet Francis Macnamara, at Blashford, and Vivien John, whose father, the celebrated painter Augustus John, presided over a chaotically stylish ménage at Fryern in Dorset. Shephard painted the Macnamara family members over the years, especially Nicolette's sister Caitlin and her husband, Dylan Thomas (informal but fine studies of whom are in the National Portrait Gallery).

On leaving the Slade, Shephard became a schoolmaster at Raynes Park County School, using his evenings to paint especially in music halls, theatres, and pubs. He joined the avant-garde Theatre Group which put on work by promising young writers such as W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender but, though he took on minor acting parts, he failed to secure the stage design job he had hoped for. He had exhibited his paintings since 1929 at such venues as the London Group, Wertheim Gallery, and Coolings Gallery. In 1937, the inaugural year of the Euston Road School of Drawing and Painting, he exhibited with the school's founder members William Coldstream, Claude Rogers, and Victor Pasmore at the Storran Gallery. His modernist, linear style of the early 1930s had by then developed into the subtle, soft-hued, painterly manner associated with the Euston Road School, and the next decade saw some of his finest work.

With the onset of the Second World War Shephard left teaching to become a draughtsman in industry and later an official war artist, covering factories and the home front. On 31 July 1942 he married his first wife, Lorna Olive (1911–1962), daughter of Edward Frank Wilmott, a British-born businessman based in South Africa, and lived in London. Their three children, Marylla, Caroline, and Ben, were born in 1942, 1944, and 1948 respectively. Shephard applied himself energetically as always: exhibiting in the West End; undertaking portrait commissions, including several for ICI's ambitious Portrait of an Industry; lecturing at St Martin's School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts; and painting local London scenes for Recording Britain (a project devised to record for posterity buildings deemed to be at risk from the blitz, though in reality it was later post-war development that destroyed many of them).

In 1948 Shephard took up the appointment of director at the Michaelis Art School at the University of Cape Town and moved to South Africa with his family. The brilliant colour and strong light of Africa had a profound and long-lasting effect on his painting, dissipating his low-toned palette and bringing vivid colour to his bold African native compositions. He had seven exhibitions in Cape Town and three in Johannesburg from 1948 to 1963 as well as showing in four international exhibitions. In 1954 he published Capescapes, a volume of verse illustrated with his own lino-cuts. His wife, a chronic asthmatic, died in 1962 and he decided to return to England with his children and to paint full-time.

On 24 April 1965 Shephard married , author and artist, whose husband, a fellow Slade student, Anthony Devas, had died in 1958. They lived at 68 Limerston Street, London, travelling often to France, when funds allowed. Shephard's work was underpinned by portrait commissions and exhibitions—mainly in London. In 1972 he was elected to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. In 1966 and 1977 he published The Passing Scene (a portfolio of lino-cuts) and Cockcrow and other Verses. Despite the vigorous and hale persona that he presented to the world, his eyesight began to fail in the late eighties, forcing him to give up painting in 1990. He died of cancer on 16 March 1992 in London.

Examples of his work are in the National Portrait Gallery and Imperial War Museum, London.

Sally Hunter

Sources  

The Independent (17 March 1992) · The Independent (23 March 1992) · The Times (21 March 1992) · personal knowledge (2004) · private information (2004) · b. cert. · m. cert. [Lorna Wilmott] · m. cert. [Nicolette Devas] · d. cert. · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1992)

Likenesses  

R. Shephard, self-portrait, oils, 1941 (Self-portrait with chrysanthemums), repro. in The Independent (17 March 1992)

Wealth at death  

£267,722: probate, 30 June 1992, CGPLA Eng. & Wales