I was given a gift of a book on an artist I had only noticed a few months ago! But when reading the book I realised I’d seen his work in Lilliput a long time ago where I have examined a lot of Raymond Sheppard‘s artwork.
Artur Ernesto Teixeira de Vasconcelos Barbosa, was an artist who worked in different fields – predominantly commercial art. As Lawrence Blackmore, the author, says this meant his work was not as valued as those ‘fine artists’ who assemble piles of bricks, or unmade beds! Barbosa was very talented and is well-remembered for his focus on period costume but he also designed stage sets, costumes and as Blackmore tells us, on one occasion, the interior of a rather famous yacht!
Barbosa was born in Liverpool on 6 March 1908 and lived in Groombridge, Kent until his death on 5 October 1995.
The picture of the cover, above, shows how thick this gorgeous book is – 350 pages of reproductions, and biographies. It’s on quality paper and I can’t see there ever being another biography on Barbosa or a gathering of his materials in one place like this. The edition is limited to 500 – or as the publisher says “Available in a limited edition of just 500 copies worldwide, only four hundred and fifty of which will be for sale. It will not be reprinted”
Blackmore gives us a biography and tells us about Barbosa’s career and how he worked on book jackets, set design, costume design, and advertising. He outlines the work Barbosa did on the following authors, together with a small biography of each:
- pp 85-102: George MacDonald Fraser
- pp103-122: Georgette Heyer
- pp123-130: Patrick O’Brian
- pp 131-140: Doris Leslie
He covers Barbosa’s work in magazines of the day Lilliput, Everbody’s Weekly, Bystander and does not sniff at children’s work (a refreshing change). Other authors mentioned include C. S. Forester, Joanna Trollope, Graham Greene, Sax Rohmer, Jules Verne, Anthony Powell, and Lytton Strachey. I had a lovely surprise when I had saw the following covers on John Christopher books – an author I love. I have never seen these before!
A very rare portfolio is reproduced in the book – here’s one image, demonstrating Barbosa’s detail working. Blackmore reproduces the captions which will tell you more!
One of Barbosa’s later commissions was for Tesco supermarket, producing designs for their fortified wines!
Now, time for my confession. I don’t like Barbosa’s Regency and period costume paintings. Besides the elongated figures, I find the colour paintings too 2-D without depth – even where there is a background. I do like his dustjacket designs as they mirror the period I love, where illustrators – not photographers – were king (and queen!). However I must say I do like his linework in black and white – here’s one example from the book
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (and Rex Harrison) are just some of the names that crop up in this brilliant book. The Hollywood couple asked Barbosa to design the interior of a yacht they bought, Burton, apparently realising it’s almost as cheap to own a yacht (and pay staff) than pay hotel bills!
I loved the fact that Blackmore never skirts round explaining some of the works he has found and their origins, placing art in Barbosa’s timeline. Such as the Radnorshire Fine Arts Limited pieces
I enjoyed reading this book and seeing how a researcher and fan of Barbosa put together a finished product. Personally – and this is just me – I’d love an article on the search process which can be fascinating in itself. The reproductions are very good – especially as Blackmore himself confesses very little of Barbosa’s orignal art exists. I would have liked to see references placed as footnotes to see Blackmore’s sources, but his notes at the end of the book cover all the queries I had, although I had to deduce some of them. I loved the fact that Blackmore appears not to held back any information he has acquired over a long time collecting said information. Where he has a lead he takes it, checks it, theorises and shares it here. A completist, if ever there was one. If not for the fact he admits that much more is likely to be out there yet to be discovered, this could be a catalog rasionée. Even so I doubt another will ever exist!
Another artist, mentioned in the book from Barbosa’s time was Reinganum, I’d love to see a book of his artwork! But I suspect I’m in a minority there too! One thing lacking from the book was something about Barbosa’s techinique but knowledge like that must be very hard to gather if no contemporary articles exist – especially as those who knew him are few and far between now. Blackmore has done all art collectors and admirers a great service by putting this book together
BOOK AVAILABLE AT:
Title: Barbosa: The Man who drew Flashman
Author: Lawrence Blackmore
Artist: Arthur Barbosa
Publisher: Book Palace Books, June 2018
Number of pages: 350
Format: Hard Cover with Dust Wrapper; Full Colour illustrations
Size: 9″ x 12″ (220mm x 297mm)