Francis Aubrey Shurrock

b. 1887d. 1977

Born in Lancashire, England, Francis Shurrock trained first as a teacher before attending the Royal College of Art, London. There he assisted architectural sculptor James Stevenson on the rebuilding of Oxford Circus.

Shurrock was teaching sculpture in Newcastle when World War I began. He left this position to join the war effort during which he was twice wounded, once gassed and taken as prisoner of war in early 1918.

He returned to teaching after the war but was advised to emigrate for health reasons. In 1923 he took up a position as the Modelling and Art Crafts Master at Canterbury College School of Art, Christchurch, emigrating as part of the La Trobe scheme. The intentions of the scheme were to raise the standards of art education in New Zealand and introduce more modern approaches to students. [1] Considered a lesser art compared to painting, Shurrock's experience of teaching at Canterbury was difficult. He is recognised, however, for influencing successful local sculptors including Chrystabel Aitken, Jim Allen, Alison Duff, Alan Ingham, Molly Macalister and Fred Staub.

Shurrock continued to make art exhibiting with various groups and completing three public commissions: a medallion of W.F.Massey (Wellington, 1930), a statue of James FitzGerald (Christchurch, 1934-6) and a bust of Christopher Perkins (1933). He retired from teaching in 1949 to focus on his most significant public work, the Otago Provincial Centennial Memorial (Dunedin, 1957) with Fred Staub.

Mark Stocker suggests "Shurrock's work has often been underrated by art historians, perhaps partly because of his relatively cool reaction to modern art. Yet it could be claimed that he, more than anyone else, laid the foundations of sculpture education in New Zealand, indeed of New Zealand sculpture itself. His own work, while not prolific, is of great technical refinement and reflects his high artistic ideals."

~ cited Mark Stocker, 'Shurrock, Francis Aubrey', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

[1] source:

Francis Shurrock with Fred Staub, ‘Otago Centennial Memorial’ (1952-55) [detail - male figure], Signal Hill Reserve, Ōtepoti Dunedin

Images: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021