Modern British Art by Barbara Constance Freeman: Profile study of a nude, holding a stick, seated on a stool , 19 January 1928 |





See all works by Barbara Constance Freeman

Barbara Constance Freeman:
Profile study of a nude, holding a stick, seated on a stool , 19 January 1928

Mounted (ref: 4742)

Signed and inscribed with date
Pen and ink over pencil, 20 1/2 x 14 in. (52 x 35.5 cm.)

Tags: life drawing women

Women had historically been discouraged from the nude as a genre, and even after it became acceptable for women to attend Art School drawing from a live model, rather than plastercasts, was considered inappropriate. A measure of the degree to which men felt threatened by the idea of women painting a nude is demonstrated by the hostile reaction provoked by Laura Knights iconic Self Portrait (1913), now in the collection of The National Portrait Gallery, which the Times critic of the day summed up as 'something dangerously near to vulgarity': Somehow, women painting women hardly ever infuses into her work the higher charm of the ‘eternal feminine’. This painting is obviously but an exercise, and as such it might quite appropriately have stayed in the artist’s studio. It repels, not by any special inconvenance – for it is harmless enough with an element of sensuous attraction – but by dullness and something dangerously near to vulgarity. Claude Phillips, The Daily Telegraph, 17 April 1914. Even favourable press reviews of the time used very condescending language: Mrs Knights has …proved that she has masculine genius and feminine courage. Herbert Thomas, Mrs Knights Triumph, The Cornish Telegraph, 26 March 1914, p3. In Freeman's studies there is an honesty of purpose that might typically be absent from a nude painted by a man. As Alfred Lys Baldry observed in Contemporary Figures Painters, The Studio 1925, this ‘plain matter of fact’ approach to the nudes– ‘the frank fidelity of the woman artist’ - , shared none of the characteristics of the ‘idealized rendering of the female nude as seen by a male painter ‘ The source of the above quotes is an article by Pamela Gerrish Nunn, Self Portrait by Laura Knight, The British Art Journal, volume VIII No. 2 p 53 

Barbara Constance Freeman was born on 29 November 1906 in Ealing, near London. She attended the Tiffin Girls' School in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey and later studied at the Kingston School of Art.

She illustrated many books, including The Treasure Hunters by Enid Blyton, and many collections of fairy tales, both traditional tales by Grimm and Andersen and modern stories. Some of her earliest illustrations are found in The Cuckoo Book (1942), a book of fairy tales by Edith Mary Bell. She also contributed to comics, including Playhour, and to annuals, such as, Blackie's Children's Annual 1934.

By the 1960s she had begun writing and illustrating her own books for children and young adults. Some have a touch of fantasy: in Two-thumb Thomas the eponymous hero is raised by school cats; in Broom-Adelaide, a fox rides a flying broomstick. Some, including Lucinda and The Name on the Glass, are set in the past, while in others, such as A Book by Georgina and The Other Face, the lives of the main characters are interwoven with history.

Her artwork is both clean-cut and winsome: an unmistakable style. Some of her illustrations are still in print as posters and art prints.

We are grateful to David Buckman for assistance.


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