Two previously unpublished Barker Fairleys
John and Ruth Colombo both sat for Barker Fairley portraits, John in 1968 and Ruth in 1974. I was thrilled to see the pictures when I first visited the Colombo home a couple of years ago. Yesterday, I was permitted to photograph them so that I could post them on my blog.
Ladies first. Barker Fairley was able to capture Ruth in a single attempt. I think Ruth likes it and I think she should. Attractive and intelligent. Ruth is a very good writer with a strong academic background and tells me that her portrait was done in her “blue stocking” period.
I wasn’t sure about the meaning of the term, so Ruth explained that it refers to intellectual, educated women with literary interests who, back in the 1800s, lacked the money to buy silk stockings and settled on blue ones which were cheaper (and left blue dye on the legs when removed).
So what, in his extremely reductivist way, did Fairley want to say about Ruth of the 70s? Restrained and refined in hair and dress. No frills. Classy. Her glasses help communicate the “educated” look, but it’s the hint of structure around the mouth that speak loudest to me. It’s a pretty mouth, a kissable mouth and centred quite evenly and straight on her face. But the quirky, angular lines around that mouth are what denote the character.
I think Barker Fairley saw a clear-eyed, disciplined mind quite capable of resisting and even destroying boring, conventional ideas. There’s a strong will there, and self-assurance.