Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Woman in Green Holding a Gun, 1924 

James Penniston Barraclough (1891-1942)

Woman in Green Holding a Gun, 1924, James Penniston Barraclough
Oil on canvas
20th Century
24 x 20 in (61 x 51cm)
Private collection, UK
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This atmospheric portrait of an elegant lady, standing in an open landscape holding a gun, was painted in 1924 by James Penniston Barraclough.

Although it has not been possible to identify the subject of the present work, the ploughed field and gun suggest a connection to farming and agriculture. Several years before this portrait was painted, Britain was at war and in 1915 The Board of Agriculture organised for a Land Army to provide extra agricultural support, to try and counter-balance the inevitable food shortages. By the end of 1917 there were almost 260,000 women working on the land as farm labourers. The Land Army was successfully revived for the duration of the Second World War and did not disband until 1950.

It is possible, therefore, that the subject in our portrait was one of these women who earlier contributed to the war effort. Although the lady’s attire is too fine to be associated with the official uniform worn by the ‘Land Girls’, there are obvious similarities, and the brown felt hat also bears a wheatsheaf – a symbol of their work.

James Penniston Barraclough is recorded in exhibition catalogues from the 1920s as being a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, where Walter Sickert, Dame Laura Knight and Auguste Rodin are known to have exhibited.(1) Barraclough was the eldest child of three, born at 103 Market Street in Thornton, Yorkshire to Sarah Annie Barraclough and John Harold Barraclough, a jeweller and goldsmith.(2) By the age of twenty in 1911 he was recorded as being an art student residing at 38 Richmond Road, Paddington, London in a rented room belonging to Mary Anna Parry.(3)

The month that World War I broke out, July 1914, Barraclough was on a ship called the ‘Lutzow’ bound for Genoa with his art master Philip H. Cole, presumably to study the work of the Italian Old Masters.(4) Although his return date is not known, in 1916 he married Gladys Maud Thompson in St Luke’s Church, Chelsea, and his profession is listed as a soldier rather than an artist.(5) In 1917 he was based in France as part of the Royal Garrison Artillery where he received the Victory and
British War Medals for service.(6) The Barracloughs had a daughter Jillian Mary, who was born in 1918.

As well as exhibiting at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Barraclough also exhibited predominantly portraits at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1915 and 1940, including portraits of his wife and daughter. Although this portrait was not exhibited at the Royal Academy, it is possible that it was exhibited elsewhere. It was initially displayed in an exhibition frame belonging to Barraclough’s portrait of Lady Frank (1923), exhibited at both the Royal Institute of Oil Painters the year it was painted, and the Cartwright Memorial Hall in Bradford in 1924.

(1) Recorded as being a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in Catalogue of the Thirty-fifth Spring Exhibition 1928, City of Bradford, Corporation Art Gallery, Cartwright Memorial Hall.
(2) Parish records, St Luke Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, London, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921, 10th June 1916; 1891 England Census; His siblings George (four years his junior) and Dorothy and recorded in the 1901 England Census.
(3) Paddington, Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey. The National Archives of the UK, 1911.
(4) UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. The ‘Lutzow’ from Southampton to China and Japan, 18th July 1914.
(5) Parish records, St Luke Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, London, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921, 10th June 1916.
(6) British Army WWI Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920, Barr. J. – Barratt, William. Regimental number: 79529.
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