Barnett Freedman Archive

Scope and Content

The archive consists of material compiled by and related to the artistand designer Barnett Freedman (1901-1958).

The material is divided into three distinct sub-fonds: Material compiledby Freedman himself (FRE/1); material compiled after Freedman's death, byhis solicitor, friend and admirer, Charles Aukin (FRE/2);material added to the archive since its return to the Freedman family in 1978(FRE/3). It would most accurately be described as a collection of three, separate,archives. However, the singularity of the subject matter of the collection,Barnett Freedman, makes it useful to create a unitary catalogue.

Within both FRE/1 and FRE/2 the most substantial series are those comprisingcorrespondence (FRE/1/1 and FRE/2/1). Topics covered include: the development,printing, publishing and sale of Freedman's varied work as a painter, lithographicartist and book illustrator; commercial and industrial design projects; exhibitionsof Freedman's work both during his lifetime and posthumously; Freedman'sradio and television broadcasts and public lectures; the publication of articles;financial matters both during Freedman's lifetime and posthumously; familymatters.

Individuals and institutions represented in the correspondence files include: Edward Ardizzone, Edward Bawden, Kenneth Clarke, William Coldstream;Richard and Walter de la Mare, David Kindersley, Osbert Lancaster, George Macy, Francis Meynell, Henry Moore, William Rothenstein,Felix and Julian Salmon, Siegfried Sassoon and William Tennant. Institutions include: publishersand printers such as E. J. Arnold and Sons, Baynard PressChromoworks Ltd., Curwen Press, Faber and Faber, Limited Editions and the Heritage Club all of whom published Freedman'swork. Also: the Arts Council of Great Britain; BBC; Double Crown Club; General Post Office; Arthur Guinness and Sons; William Macdonald and Sons Ltd.; Royal College of Art; Shell-Mex and BP Ltd.

Other series include: material related to individual illustrative, designand graphic projects, including developmental sketches and prints; personalmaterial; press clippings; writing lectures and broadcasts; financial matters.

The dominant themes in the Aukin papers (FRE/2) are the attempts by Aukinto make financial arrangements for Freedman's window, Claudia, and son, Vincent,by organising the sale of works from Freedman's studio and through a numberof exhibitions of his work, also the organisation of a memorial exhibitionheld at the Arts Council of Great Britain Gallery, London and touring, 1958-1959.

Research potential

The Freedman archive includes material that may prove useful for researchinto: developments in lithography in England in the period 1930-1960; bookillustration and design during the same period; the post war development ofcommercial and industrial graphic design in the UK. Also, the role of theOfficial War Artist. The archive is also informative upon the history of individualinstitutions and businesses, for example: Faber and Faber; the Limited EditionClub; William Macdonald and Sons Ltd; J. Lyons and Co Ltd.; the Curwen andthe Baynard Presses.

Administrative / Biographical History

Barnett Freedman was born in London on 19 May 1901. This is the date recordedon Freedman's birth certificate (see FRE/2/1/24) whilst his passport (seeFRE/1/3/1/1) records his date of birth as 5 May 1901. He was the eldest sonof Polish/Russian, Jewish, immigrants, Luis, and Reiza (ne Ruk)Friedman. Freedman was to alter the spelling of his surname by deed poll (seeFRE/1/3/1/2), although whether this was a true change in the family name orthe correction of an error on his birth certificate is unclear.

Freedman's childhood was marked by ill health, particularly the asthmathat was to trouble him all his life. He spent four years, between the agesof nine and thirteen, confined to various hospital beds. Freedman's precocioustalent for drawing led to his first employment, at fifteen, as a draughtsmanto a monumental mason. During the period 1916-1922 he also worked for stonemasons,architects and sign writers. At the same time he attended evening classesat the St Martins School of Art and in 1922 gained a scholarship to the RoyalCollege of Art (1922-1925) with the assistance of the College's Director SirWilliam Rothenstein. Freedman was later to teach, act as an examining visitorand be elected as an Honorary Fellow of the College (see FRE/1/1/329).

Freedman's first and his most long lasting success as a professional artistcame through book illustration and the design of book jackets. Using pen andchalk for reproduction by line blocks for black and white and auto-lithographyfor colour, Freedman developed a singular and recognisable style. Perhapshis most notable jackets designs were for Faber and Faber, London (FRE/1/1/143,FRE/1/2/15) and his finest book illustrations for editions published by theLimited Edition Club, New York (FRE/1/1/241, FRE/1/2/25). Freedman was toemploy the same techniques of auto-lithography on a larger scale in producingcolour prints and posters for, amongst others, Contemporary Lithographs Ltd.(FRE/1/1/100), J. Lyons and Co. Ltd. (FRE/1/1/251, FRE/1/2/27), and ArthurGuinness and Sons Ltd. (FRE/1/1/170, FRE/1/2/20). He also secured a numberof commissions in the field of commercial and industrial design working for,amongst others, William Macdonald and Sons (Biscuits) Ltd. (FRE/1/1/252, FRE/1/2/28),Shell-Mex and BP Ltd. (FRE/1/1/353, FRE/1/2/36), London Passenger TransportBoard (FRE/1/1/246, FRE/1/2/26) and designing a number of commemorative postalstamps and trials for the General Post Office (FRE/1/1/303, FRE/1/2/19).

From 1940 to 1946 Freedman worked as an official War artist producing a numberof painting and lithographs that became the property of the War Office (FRE/1/1/405,FRE/1/2/31). Freedman was awarded the C.B.E. in 1947, was elected as a RoyalDesigner for Industry in 1949, as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Collegeof Arts in 1956 and as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts [n.d.]. Freedmanmarried Claudia (ne Guercio), also an artist and book illustrator,in 1930 and they had one son, Vincent, in 1933, both of whom survived BarnettFreedman who died on 4 January 1958.


There seems no reason to believe that Charles Aukin did not maintain the order of the Freedman papers as he found them in Freedman’s studio on his death in 1958; the order in which the papers were subsequently passed to the Freedman family and then the Manchester Metropolitan University. The only significant reordering, by the archivist, has been the sorting of illustrative, design and graphic project files into alphabetical order; for ease of searching. The composition of the individual files, however, remains unchanged. Similarly the Charles Aukin papers remain in the order in which his family passed them on to the Freedman family and, subsequently, they were delivered to the University.

The series are arranged as follows:

  • FRE/1 Papers of Barnett Freedman
  • FRE/1/1 Correspondence
  • FRE/1/2 Illustrative, design and graphic projects
  • FRE/1/3 Personal material
  • FRE/1/4 Press clippings
  • FRE/1/5 Writing, lectures and broadcasts
  • FRE/2 Papers of Charles Aukin
  • FRE/2/1 Correspondence
  • REF/2/2 Probate and Estate papers
  • FRE/2/3 Financial notes
  • FRE/2/4 Shell-Mex Exhibition
  • FRE/2/5 Memorial Exhibition
  • FRE/2/6 Biographical notes
  • FRE/2/7 Articles and Reviews
  • FRE/3 Material collected since 1978
  • FRE/3/1 Exhibitions
  • FRE/3/2 Audio tapes

Access Information

Access is by appointment only. Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections at the Sir Kenneth Green Library are open from 10.00am - 4.00pm, Monday - Friday. Please contact: The Special Collections Archivist, Manchester Metropolitan University, Sir Kenneth Green Library, All Saints, Manchester, M15 6BH; tel: +44 (0)161 - 247 6159; e-mail:

Acquisition Information

The archive was purchased, for a nominal sum, by Manchester Metropolitan University, from the Freedman family in 1982.

Other Finding Aids

Full catalogue available in the reading room, Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright remains with the Freedman family.

Correspondence copyright rests with the author. Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. All items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Special Collections Archivist.

Custodial History

Barnett Freedman’s papers were secured from his central London studio by his friend and advisor to the Freedman estate, Charles Aukin, upon Freedman’s death in 1958. Aukin utilised the papers in his attempts to the secure the financial future of the Freedman family. Aukin’s family subsequently returned the papers to the Freedman family, along with those of Aukin that concerned his efforts on their behalf. They remained with the Freedman family until their acquisition by Manchester Metropolitan University in 1982.

Related Material

The Manchester Metropolitan University Library holds a very full collection of books illustrated by Barnett Freedman in its Book Design Collection.

The Tate Gallery archives holds correspondence between Barnett Freedman and Baron (Kenneth Mackenzie) Clark.


Rothenstein, J. Barnett Freedman, The Studio, January 1935, no. 109, pp 90-93.

Mayne, J. English masters of black and white: Barnett Freedman (London, Arts and Technics, 1948).

Rogerson, I. and Hoskins, S. Barnett Freedman: Painter, draughtsman, lithographer (Manchester, Manchester Polytechnic Library, 1990).

Horne, A. The Dictionary of 20th century British book illustrators (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2003).