Freedman, Barnett

(1901 – 1958)

Study for the Stanhope Street group, circa 1926


Pencil, charcoal, ink and wash
15 x 22 1/2 in. (38 x 57.1 cm)

1 in stock


The Artist’s Studio

The Stanhope Street group

Literature: Mason, Emma, Barnett Freedman, Designs for Modern Britain, Pallant House Gallery, 2020, p. 17

Freedman married fellow student Claudia Guercio in 1926 in a match initially kept secret from her disapproving parents.  They lived in two rooms near the Euston Road, one of which Freedman used as a studio as he sought to combine theatrical activities with oil painting, remarking later I nearly starved’.

The scene depicted is probably a rehearsal, possibly for a play that Freedman, directing proceedings at the left, was intending to produce.. 

At the time Freedman greatly admired the East End dramatist Israel Zangwill and Freedman’s obituary cited involvement in productions at the Little, Fortune and Scala theatres.

From various surviving studies several figures have been identified as RCA contemporaries. Roy Keevil is  the figure coming through the door. Barnett Freedman has his back to the viewer with a violin at his feet,  Frank Barber, an impecunious artist who Ravilious tried to obtain a commission for, but who later committed suicide, is at the piano.  Francis Spear is most likely the figure seated at the foot of the easel; the older figure seated on the floor behind is llikely to be William Rothenstein or Robert Buhler;  Alan Sorrell is portrayed full length, looking back to the viewer, Charles Mahoney is seated on the table, probably with Percy Horton seated next to him, leg raised, and G.K. Branson. Gerald Ososki is seated on the stool, with Hugh Finney to his left..  Possible candidates for the unidentified figure, (lounging across the two stools in the foreground), are Donald Towner, Athol Hay and  Albert Houthuesen.

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Freedman, Barnett

1901 – 1958

Illustrator, painter, printmaker and teacher, Freedman was born to Russian Jewish immigrants living in poverty in the East End of London. In 1916, he worked as draughtsman to a monumental mason, and at the same time took evening classes at St Martin’s School of Art. In 1922, he won a three-year scholarship to the Royal College of Art. In 1928, he joined the staff of the Royal College, and not long afterwards began to teach at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. He soon became a pioneer in the revival of colour lithography. He was an Official War Artist in World War II. By the time of his death Freedman had established an enviable reputation as an illustrator and designer of posters, stamps, books and book-jackets. He believed that there was no such thing as commercial art, ‘only good art and bad art’. His first exhibition was held in 1929 at the Literary Bookshop, Bloomsbury. A memorial exhibition was organised by the Arts Council in 1958. Manchester Polytechnic, which holds the Freedman archive, held a major show in 1990. Examples of his work are in the collection of the Tate Gallery.

With thanks to


Circus – Go By Underground, 1936
The Sleeping Dead, Design for Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, c. 1931
Two Vignettes, Design for Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer c. 1931
Portrait of Claudia Guercino, the Artist’s Future Wife