Category Archives: Barber Association

Barber Association trip to the New Art Gallery Walsall

Barber Association members, Hollie Pimm, Emily Robins, Jess Stallwood and Sarah Theobald, tell us about the New Art Gallery Walsall and some of their favourite works on display…

Earlier this year, the Barber Association organised a trip to the New Art Gallery Walsall for its members. This was certainly a treat as none of us had visited the gallery before. We had a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the collections with curator Julie Brown, which made the trip even more exciting for those of us art historians who see working in galleries as our dream jobs.

The Walsall gallery was built in 2000 and is a very modern and impressive building. Once inside, the gallery space is very intimate with a number of small rooms and big wooden staircases leading between floors. A great feature of the gallery is the fact that it offers artwork to suit all tastes, from panel paintings from the Renaissance to post-Impressionist and Modern works of art.

The main attraction of the gallery is its Garman Ryan collection, which was donated to the borough of Walsall by Kathleen Garman, the wife of well-known English sculptor Jacob Epstein. The collection is on permanent display and has a wealth of interesting artworks by a number of significant artists, such as Gauguin, Monet, Turner and Constable. We found the curating of the gallery very interesting; instead of the usual chronological grouping or the organisation of work according to artist, the artworks are arranged by general themes, such as landscape and townscape, animals and birds, portraits and religion, to name a few.


The New Art Gallery Walsall

Here are some of our favourite works of art from the trip:

Lucian Freud, Portrait of Kitty, 1949, Oil on board, 32 cm x 24 cm


This is a portrait by Lucian Freud of his first wife Kitty Garman, daughter of Kathleen Garman (donor of the main collection) and Jacob Epstein. Kitty was married to Freud in 1948 and therefore this portrait is from very early on in their marriage. Although their marriage together didn’t last very long, what strikes me about this portrait is that it is incredibly intimate. The viewer is left with the impression that they are very close to kitty, leaving us to imagine that she is right in front of us. The muted green and brown colours also make her delicate, pale skin glow and her beauty stand out to the viewer. The viewer takes on the role of the artist and we perhaps see her through his loving gaze.

Hollie Pimm

Epstein Archive

What fascinated me the most was the archive interventions provided by leading contemporary artist – Bob and Roberta Smith, in his ‘Epstein Archive Gallery.’ Smith’s two year residency at Walsall has resulted in an installation which not only illuminates the interesting history of the Epstein Family, but allows viewers to interact and engage with archival items and gain a deeper understanding not just of the family, but of the collection itself. Furthermore, the artistic response to the letters, photographs and diaries which form the archive basis is in keeping with the themes present in the permanent collection at Walsall, whilst remaining committed to the gallery programme which seeks to explore the diversity of contemporary art.

Emily Robins


Gauguin, Auti Te Pape, c.1893-1894, woodcut


While wandering round the New Art Gallery Walsall I found myself amongst a great number of artworks by some of the most important artists in history, such as Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). Personally, I have always been fascinated by the life and work of the French post-Impressionist and I was excited to discover that Auti Te Pape (c.1893-1894), a woodcut by the artist, was part of the collection.

As a man who chose to abandon his family and ‘civilized’ life in Europe, Gauguin developed a reputation as an artist attempting a return to man-kind’s so-called ‘primitive’ origins and connection with nature. His time living and painting in Tahiti towards the end of the nineteenth century was seen by many as an escape from the artifice of modern and industrialized France. This particular print depicts two Tahitian women, supposedly unaware of the artist’s gaze. The stylized impressions made by woodcut prints were perhaps used to represent the seeming honesty and purity of the Tahitian people. The simplified and inky markings perhaps symbolise the exotic and erotic myth which Gauguin presented to his stifled and constrained Western world.

Jess Stallwood

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Portrait of Elizabeth Siddall, The Artist’s Wife, pencil on paper, 23cm x 19.5cm


‘This particular drawing depicts Lizzie being interrupted whilst reading, with her head propped on her hands as her famous copper hair cascades down her back.’

Being a fervent admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites, spotting this painting was a pure delight. I immediately thought that it was a very intimate portrait of Lizzie Siddall, with her dream-like gaze from her heavily hooded eyes and the soft touch of her hands on her jaw line. Although Rossetti’s speed can be seen in his pencil strokes, he has arguably taken great care to capture his beautiful wife. Another thing to note about this work is its title. It is hoped that ‘Portrait of Elizabeth Siddall, The Artist’s Wife’  was the title that Rossetti himself gave to the drawing because it suggests that he was accepting commitment as they were married the same year in which this drawing was made. By titling the drawing of Elizabeth Siddall in this way, it might suggest a grand loving gesture from him to his new wife who was suffering from depression. It is unlikely that he would have named a sketch, but it was found on the wall of his studio after he died.

Sarah Theobald

Overall, we all thoroughly enjoyed our trip organised by the Barber Association, and we were very lucky to get a sneak peak behind the scenes of the gallery. The gallery is definitely worth a visit – it is only 20 minutes away from Birmingham by train and has lots of hidden treasures in its collection…

Hollie Pimm, Emily Robins, Jess Stallwood, Sarah Theobald

Ain’t no party like a Bauhaus party . . .!


Students from the Art History department and the Barber Association have organised a summer soirée for everyone in the department to celebrate the end of the year, the end of exams(!), and to see off our finalists with a bang!

It takes place on Monday 9 June from 7-10pm in the Barber.

The theme is Bauhaus, and fancy-dress is welcome, encouraged, even – time to don your thinking caps, perhaps take cue from the above photograph of Oskar Schlemmer’s  Bauhaus costumes from the 1920s! Otherwise, dress in metallics.

Tickets cost £18, with a reduced ticket price of £15 for Barber Association members. The event will include:

– Drinks on arrival

– Light buffet

– Photographer

– Live music

…and last but not least…

– A photo booth  (for flaunting all those ace Bauhaus-esque outfits!)

You will be allowed to bring some alcohol with you, as long as it is not spirits or red wine. So feel free to bring along some white wine or fizz to celebrate another year’s hard work!

Tickets can be purchased from the Barber reception or from your year reps. Plus ones are more than welcome. The Facebook event can be found here.



Picture of the Month – the student’s choice: Rossetti’s Blue Bower (1865)

As members of the Barber Association and the Department of Art History, Film and Visual Studies, our students get involved in the Barber Institute’s Picture of the Month Scheme.

This month (March), second year student and artist in her own right, Sarah Theobald picked Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Blue Bower which was painted in 1865.

Here is what she says about it:

“This painting is the reason why I chose to attend the University of Birmingham.  I joined ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Society’ when I was fourteen and the thought of being able to study in the same building as this exquisite Rossetti, and see the painting as much as possible, was just too enticing.

The image is a truly striking example of the Pre-Raphaelites’ desire to achieve excellence in the minutest of detail.  Rossetti himself said that it was filled with ‘opulence, sophistication of hue, and beguiling decoration.’

For me, it is one of the Barber’s triumphal acquisitions.”

The Blue Bower, 1865 (oil on canvas), Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Blue Bower, 1865 (oil on canvas), Barber Institute of Fine Arts

You can find out more about the Blue Bower here and see it up in the Barber Galleries (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm and Sat-Sun 11am-5pm).

Watch this space for Sarah’s report on her gallery talk for the Barber’s display of miniatures!

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Check out the Barber Association’s Spring Programme!


To book your place on any of these events or to join the Barber Association please contact:

Wednesday 22 January – Discover the Research and Cultural Collections 2-3.30pm

An afternoon at University of Birmingham’s Research and Cultural Collections Discover the diverse and surprising collections held within Research and Cultural Collections including decorative arts, science instruments and objects exploring the University’s own heritage. You will also have the opportunity to take part in an object handling workshop with RCC staff exploring how to work with, interpret and curate objects.

8 places available Booking essential. Barber Association members only.

(Meet at Research and Cultural Collections, 32 Pritchatts Road)

Wednesday 29 January – ‘Refacing the coinage’ 1 – 3pm followed by free tea and cake

Drawing workshop with professional artist Tom Jones Join professional artist Tom Jones for a drawing workshop exploring the fascinating symbols, inscriptions and iconography found on Islamic and Byzantine coins in the Barber collection. Get up close to the coins, study them through drawing and use this visual vocabulary to create visual and verbal graphics that represent your own face, character and identity. No prior drawing skills or knowledge of coins necessary!

7 places available. Booking essential. Barber Association members only.

Wednesday 5 February ‘Behind the scenes at the Cadbury Research Library’, 2 – 3.30pm

A tour through the Cadbury Research Library, home of the University’s Special Collections. You will have the opportunity to see inside the strong rooms where the manuscripts and rare books are stored and visit the conservation studio, including a practical demonstration of Japanese lining techniques by the paper conservator. The tour will include a viewing and handling session of some of the highlights from the collections as well as an introduction to the current exhibition: Art and Anatomy curated by Professor Alice Roberts.

15 places available. Booking essential. Barber Association members only.

(Meet at the Muirhead foyer exhibition cases at 2pm)

Wednesday 26 February – Contemporary Art lunchtime lecture followed by a free printmaking workshop 1.10 – 2pm

Lunchtime Lecture – ‘The who, what, why and where of contemporary art’

Join independent curator and writer Anneka French who will be discussing the  ‘ins and outs ’ of contemporary art, inspired by our New Art West Midlands exhibition. Free, just turn up.

Free printmaking workshop – 2 – 4.30pm Come along for a taster session in drypoint, a form of printmaking involving scratching a design into a copper plate. See some fabulous examples of drypoint in the Barber’s collection, including Egon Schiele’s Crouching Woman, watch a demonstration of the process, then have a go at making your own drypoint print!

Schiele drypoint

12 places available. Booking essential. Barber Association members only.

March – date tbc – A visit to the award-winning art gallery Compton Verney which has an amazing collection of Baroque art from Naples, sculptures and paintings from the Northern Renaissance and British portraits, amongst other things!

Compton Verney in Warwickshire

Compton Verney in Warwickshire

Wednesday 5 March – Contemporary Art Study Afternoon 1.30 – 4.30pm

Includes free tea and biscuits! Explore new art at the Barber… inspired by our New Art West Midlands exhibition, contemporary art is the focus of this study afternoon of lectures and discussion. Meet the New Art West Midlands exhibition curators and exhibiting artists to find out more about their work and practice in their own words. Discussions will also consider the challenges and opportunities facing new artists emerging today and explore what’s exciting in the regional art scene right now. Find out more about the exhibition at:

Wednesday 19 March ‘Art History Speed Workshop #3: Life and Death’ 2 – 3pm followed by free tea and cake for BA members!

Expand your knowledge of art through five key paintings with the theme of Life and Death. A bit like speed dating, you’ll spend a few minutes up close and personal with a picture, with our very own undergraduate and postgraduate history of art students, before moving on to the next one. Unlike speed dating, you might find you don’t want to run a mile at the end, but instead linger a bit longer in the gallery and enjoy free tea and cake with fellow Barber Association members!

Speed Dating Marie Speed Dating Jamie

This could be you..! Would you like to work with a postgraduate student to develop and deliver a Speed Art talk for this event? If so, contact Dr Elizabeth L’Estrange,

FREE, please book your place by emailing


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