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Roderic Barrett 1920-2000

GOLDMARK


Goldmark Gallery

Goldmark has been selling art from the gallery in Uppingham for over three decades. Prints and paintings, ceramics and sculpture are shipped to clients all over the world, often bought from our many websites. As well as producing numerous art catalogues, we are an occasional publisher of books. We also make art film documentaries. For more information phone us on 01572 821424 or check out www.goldmarkart.com A sumptuous offline copy of this catalogue is available, price £10 + p&p.

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Roderic Barrett


Roderic Barrett Paintings and Prints

Essay by David Buckman

GOLDMARK 2009


This edition first published in the United Kingdom in June 2009 by Goldmark All rights reserved

Text © David Buckman 2009 Photography Christian Soro Design Porter/Goldmark Portraits courtesy Chappel Galleries

Goldmark Gallery 14 Orange Street, Uppingham Rutland, LE15 9SQ 01572 821424 www.rodericbarrett.co.uk www.goldmarkart.com

half title: 1. Dark Umbrella, c1960s, oil on canvas, 36 x 25 cm, £3,750

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Roderic Barrett

Roderic Barrett is one of the most powerful and distinctive British painters who worked in the last century, whose paintings and engravings are only now gaining a more just appreciation. His output was not great, sometimes only a few pictures in a year, but his images are distinctive and often unforgettable. Barrett is an unusual English artist as he rarely paints the landscape, additionally odd for one who was brought up in the Essex countryside and chose to live there. You could say that his was a landscape of the mind, one in which he is preoccupied with anonymous figures and a group of objects that appear and reappear throughout a lifetimeʼs work. It is sometimes argued that knowledge of a composerʼs, novelistʼs, painterʼs or sculptorʼs work is unnecessary to the understanding of what he or she produces. In Barrettʼs case, this must be considered an irrelevant judgement. The viewer faced with a painting such as Bit Part Players or Dark Umbrella understandably is curious about its meaning. Barrett was not given to explaining his pictures in words and his visual enigmas do not lend themselves to ready solutions, but a few facts about his life do help, I think, towards an understanding of them. Born in 1920, this artistic nonconformist came from a background steeped in nonconformity. His great-grandfather was a nonconformist radical and Chartist, his grandfather a Liberal and Congregationalist and his father a Congregationalist and then a Quaker, a propagandist for the Labour Party and pacifist, an imprisoned conscientious objector during the First World War. Roderic, a lifelong Socialist and pacifist, also objected to military service during the Second World War.


By contrast, Rodericʼs studies from 1936-40 at the Central School of Arts and Crafts were conventional. Among teachers who left an impression on his work were those fine draughtsmen William Roberts and Bernard Meninsky and for printmaking John Farleigh. Farleigh judged Barrett the best engraver he had ever known, according to Rodericʼs farmer brother Hugh. After his tribunal exemption as a conscientious objector, Barrett helped Hugh on the land, saw the effects of bombing in East London working with the Friendsʼ War Relief Committee and taught at a private school. Then, with his wife Lorna, he had about three years back in Essex as members of an idealistic farming community at Frating before settling in Colchester. Part-time teaching at Colchester School of Art led in 1947 to an appointment to teach several days a week at the Central School, where he was to stay for 21 years. This, combined with Lornaʼs careful housekeeping and gradual sales of his own work, supplied enough income for a frugal existence. Barrett found the classroom drained his energy. He was a demanding teacher, who enjoyed feedback from the students, several of them telling Lorna: Weʼve got no-one who teaches one-to-one like he does. From 1939-40 Barrett began showing with the Society of Wood Engravers, from 1946 with the Colchester Art Society and with the Society through the 1950s he became a regular exhibitor. Among the admirers of his wood engravings was Cecil Keeling who produced an

2. Reaching, Waiting, 1972, oil on board, 121 x 90 cm, £14,500


3. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza VIII, 1948, oil on canvas, 61 x 51 cm, ÂŁ5,750

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article on them in the fine and now scarce art publication Motif , in spring 1961 issued, Motif 6. Among the illustrations were the powerful Chairs and Men, Family of Chairs, Family Bike Ride, Ass and Man and Fallen Chair, some such engraved images over the years, also appearing as oils. Barrett was given his first solo show at The Hilton Gallery, Cambridge, in 1948, the paintings, drawings and engravings including work on the Don Quixote theme, a favourite of the artistʼs. It was not surprising that the rather dour realism of Barrettʼs oils would appeal to the Beaux Arts Gallery, where Helen Lessore in the 1950s showed the Kitchen Sink painters, among them John Bratby. He and Roderic had shows together at the Beaux Arts in 1954, Roderic having a second in 1956. If he did not sell a lot of the paintings and prints on offer, it was good exposure at a prominent London venue. These were followed by surprising American one-man shows in 1957 and 1958, the second at the Shore Studio Galleries, Boston, the first at The Lamont Gallery at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. It was there that the Barrett family stayed for a year while Roderic replaced the art master on a yearʼs sabbatical. Barrett enjoyed escape from post-war English austerity, but he was usually a reluctant traveller, as a long journey meant that it will take so long for my soul to catch up. During the remaining just over 40 years, Barrettʼs pictures would be included in many dozens of mixed exhibitions, punctuated by a string of solo shows. His first retrospective, at The Minories, Colchester, in 1973, would be one of a series, and he became the long-serving president of the Colchester Art Society in 1982. Barrettʼs pictures from 1970 were a frequent feature of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, where two years earlier he had begun to teach part-time, disenchanted with


the Central School. He loved teaching the Academy Schools postgraduate students and they appreciated his honesty and uncompromisingly high standards. Many believed Barrett should have been elected a Royal Academician. He was for a time a candidate with strong backers, but his wry remembrance of an official dinner showed that this lifelong nonconformist was unsuited for the role. Barrett stayed at the Royal Academy Schools until 1996, four years before he died. His enduring legacy is a set of wonderful images, often with built-in enigmas. As with John Collierʼs Victorian and Edwardian puzzle pictures, with their curiously interrupted narratives and titles such as Trouble, The Prodigal Daughter and A Fallen Idol, one would like to ask Roderic what the figures are up to in his paintings Eleven to Twelve or Reaching, Waiting. Whatever the exact significance of the people and objects in these paintings or in, say, Woman with Bowls or Oil Stove with Skull, clearly evident is Barrettʼs concern to achieve underlying strong abstract design. He was rarely satisfied with a picture and would often alter it if given the opportunity. Candles symbolise life, and a half-candle a life cut short. Chairs represent people, and upturned chairs an argument. These are just two suggestions that have been made to interpret some of Barrettʼs images with an obvious emotional charge. Any interpretation is probably speculative, and as the viewer stands puzzling, he or she should not neglect to enjoy the image for its own sake. David Buckman, author, Roderic Barrett, Chappel Galleries, 2003


4. The Evening Chair, 1962, oil on canvas, 92 x 122 cm, ÂŁ9,500

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Roderic Barrett Selected Biography 1920 Born 8th January in Colchester, the son of Cecil Barrett, an ironmonger. Cecil was a radical non-conformist imprisoned as a conscientious objector in World War I. 1929 Family moved to Letchworth and Barrett was educated at the St. Christopherʼs School, a Quaker boarding school in the town. 1936 Studied art at Central School of Art & Crafts, London for four years where his tutors included William Roberts and Bernard Meninsky. Barrett specialized in wood engraving under John Farleigh. 1939 Exhibited at the Society of Wood Engravers. 1940 Left the Central School and as a Quaker and conscientious objector was exempted from active service during World War II. 1943 Married his wife Lorna. 1946 Exhibited with Colchester Arts Society for first time, an association which lasted for over fifty years. 1947 Started part-time teaching at the Central School of Art & Crafts where he remained for twenty-one years. 1954 First solo show of several at the Beaux Art Gallery. 1962 First solo show of several at the Minories, Colchester. 1966 First solo show of several at the Alwin Gallery. 1968 Left teaching post at the Central School to become a tutor at the Royal Academy Schools where he remained for twenty-eight years. 1971 First solo show of several at the Oxford Gallery, Oxford. 1982 Succeeded Cedric Morris as president of the Colchester Arts Society. 1987 Exhibits at Mansion House, Ipswich. 1996 Major retrospective exhibitions at the Barbican Centre and the Minories. 1997 Awarded an honorary doctorate by Essex University. 2000 Eightieth birthday exhibition held at the Chappel Galleries. Dies at Colchester on November 17th. 2002 Exhibition Celebrating Man: Remembering Roderic Barrett at University of Essex. 2008 Further major retrospective exhibition held at Bradford Museum.


5. Eleven to Twelve, c1965, oil on board, 122 x 107 cm, ÂŁ14,500

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6. Bit Part Players, 1972/73, oil on canvas, 121.5 x 122 cm, ÂŁ15,000

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7. Old Woman with Bowls, 1965-69, oil on board, 121.5 x 122 cm, ÂŁ12,000

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8. Walking Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, c1954, oil on board, 76 x 45.5 cm, ÂŁ7,500

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9. Saucepans and Tables, 1967-71, oil on board, 122 x 92 cm, ÂŁ20,000

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10. Oil Stove with Skull, 1966-70, oil on board, 70.5 x 30.5 cm, ÂŁ3,500

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11. Three Bowls, c1962/63, oil on board, 122 x 91 cm, ÂŁ14,500

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12. Fallen Chair with Rush Seat, 1962, oil on board, 61 x 76 cm, ÂŁ8,000

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13. Three Players, 1982-89, oil on canvas, 99 x 48 cm, ÂŁ6,000

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14. Family House, 1949, wood engraving, ed 20, initialled, 7.7 x 7 cm, ÂŁ500 15. Chairs and Men, 1952, wood engraving, ed 50, signed, 26 x 20.5 cm, ÂŁ850 visit www.rodericbarrett.com for availability of any of the pictures shown in this online catalogue


16. Ass and Man, 1951, wood engraving, ed 45, signed, 18 x 17 cm, ÂŁ850 17. Family Bike Ride, 1952, wood engraving, signed, 17.5 x 7.7 cm, ÂŁ500


18. Bike Ride, c 1956, linocut, ed 3, 21 x 13 cm, £550 19. Family of Chairs, 1950-55, wood engraving, 6 x 9.5 cm, £500 20. Fallen Chair, 1956, wood engraving, ed 15, signed, 20 x 25.5 cm, £850


21. Deserted House with Two Jeering Characters, 1953, linocut, ed 6, signed, 29 x 40 cm, ÂŁ850 22. Figure, 1949, linocut, ed 20, initialled, 27 x 25.5 cm, ÂŁ1,000


23. Breakfast Things, 1970, pen and ink, initialled, 30.5 x 20.5 cm, ÂŁ1,250

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David Buckman

David Buckman has been a journalist for over 40 years, initially on the sta of several magazines, travelling in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. As a freelance, he wrote for dozens of publications and made several hundred radio and television broadcasts. After the 1998 appearance of his invaluable dictionary Artists in Britain Since 1945 , he has written full-time on art. He contributed to Macmillan's The Dictionary of Art. Monographs include J B Manson, Leonid Pasternak, Martin Leman and Glyn Morgan; Mixed Palette , a study of Frank Ward and Kathleen Walne; and Charles Debenham's East Anglia; and he has completed a biography of the sculptor A H Gerrard. He writes frequently for The Independent and Galleries magazine.

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Roderic Barrett

...some of the most memorable and powerful pictures in twentieth century British art. David Buckman, 2003

GOLDMARK GALLERY 14 ORANGE STREET, UPPINGHAM, RUTLAND, LE15 9SQ 01572 821424 www.goldmarkart.com www.rodericbarrett.co.uk


Roderic Barrett