Artist Barbara Newcomb

Artist Barbara Newcomb pictured with one of her works

Three works by Milman Road artist Barbara Newcomb depicting sportsmen were recently acquired by Reading Foundation for Art and are now on display at Reading Museum.

She was approached at the Reading Contemporary Art Fair at Rivermead and from about 20 works that she took along 8 were acquired by the Foundation.

Barbara explained the technique, which involves etching the surface and sometimes she would etch right through copper plates with acid to produce the design. Once the plates are inked up with colours that Barbara mixed herself, then they are placed on the press bed with the paper on top and all of it is rolled between the two very heavy rollers. The embossing on the print is a result of this process. This can be seen in the works on show in the Museum.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a blossoming in the production and popularity of printmaking. This lasted for twenty or thirty years through the 1970s and 80s when Barbara was working in London. This was an enjoyable time in her career. When the digital revolution began, fine art printmaking became less in demand.

The other technique that she used a lot in the 1990s and until 2010, is monoprint, printing one unique work at a time.

People would say ‘why print, why not just paint?’, but printing, somehow I love the quality of prints and when you print the image comes off in reverse. That would then give you all kinds of new ideas because you would see it very differently.

In 2011 her husband had a stroke and she stopped at that point and then never really got back into it again. Although she hadn’t planned to stop she was happy to move on to a new chapter and finally sold her press.

Themes of her portfolio include seascapes, Fred Astaire, clouds and trees, landscapes and athletes and sports. It is from the last theme that the works on display have been selected.

The Astaire collection of monoprints began with a holiday in Devon in the early 2000s.

I just got so passionate about Fred Astaire, nobody ever came close. One Christmas when Eddie and I rented a place on the coast in Devon, it was mainly so that I could take photos of the waves. Every morning the BBC would have one of Fred Astaire’s films on. This was my era when I was born in the 30s, but I’d never known him before and I just thought it was so fabulous!

Movement is very well conveyed by the etchings on display in Reading Museum. This series did not start with a particular sportsperson and the first in this group of works was very abstract. Her fascination with the subject came from:

The movement and the excitement of it and somebody making all that effort giving it all they’ve got, I love that.

Katesgrove residents may wonder if the idea in ‘Skyline’ came from a Reading roof but beautiful as it is, this is not a Reading roof.

Barbara was born in a town in Virginia, then moved near Chicago. She has lived in many big cities around the world: New York City, San Francisco, London, Paris and Beirut.

She moved to Reading when she and her husband decided to downsize and move out of London. They were looking for somewhere to the west because of their involvement with the local Buddhist Community. The house they purchased on Milman Road was perfect because it had a large front room for the press. She says that although she knew nothing about Reading at the time and although she loves the country she is very happy in the town because ‘so much is here, it is a great place to live’.

  1. Barbara Newcomb
  2. Reading Foundation for Art
  3. Sporting theme for recent additions to Reading Foundation for Art Collection
  4. Reading Contemporary Art Fair
  5. Reading Museum