The atmosphere at the Royal College of Art in the years succeeding the First World War was one of great vitality and youth. Working alongside forward thinking artists like John Tunnard and Henry Moore as well as the more traditional Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, the RCA was a highly stimulating environment for Freedman.. In 1932, in recognition of his talent, he was appointed Instructor of Still Life at the RCA and shortly after a teacher at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford, both posts he held for a number of years. Between his formative training and the Second World War, Barnett Freedman’s artistic talents turned towards illustration and lithography; pursuits that he followed with great success until his appointment as official war artist in 1940. He crossed the channel in the company of Edward Ardizzone and Edward Bawden, both noted illustrators, then in 1941, with the fall of France, he returned to England and transferred to the Admiralty. He spent the remainder of the war working with the Navy recording life in submarines and battleships in drawings, watercolours and oil paintings. A fine example of his work of this period is his famous lithograph “15-Inch Gun Turret, HMS Repulse”.
All but three of the works in this month’s exhibition were painted between 1922 and 1925 while Freedman studied at the Royal College of Art. They were a recent discovery of Vincent Freedman (Barnett Freedman’s son), whereupon they were acquired by Gerrish Fine Art. This is the first public exhibition of these works.