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Portrait of a Lady: The Life and Passions of Lady Barber Exhibition

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Published January 26th 2013
An exhibition to honour a heroine of the Edwardian age
It was the vision of Dame Martha Constance Hattie Barber, aka Lady Barber, that brought about the creation of Birmingham's Barber Institute of Fine Arts. So as the art gallery, based at the University of Birmingham, in Edgbaston celebrates its 80 years in existence, this free exhibition is a fitting tribute to the Worcestershire woman to whom it owes so much.

Portrait of a Lady: The Life and Passions of Lady Barber features a wonderful eclectic mix of old photographs, paintings and mementos of Lady Barber and her Birmingham husband, William Henry Barber, and their life at Culham Court.
Lady Barber, Portrait of a Lady exhibition
A Nestor Cambier portrait of Lady Barber by a Leopard-skin Rug, about 1923

Lady Barber had 25 portraits done by her favoured artist, Nestor Cambier and these are part of the centrepiece of the exhibition.
You can also see rarely-seen textiles from Culham Court,and pieces of Lady Barber's collection of historic lace.
Lady Barber portrait at Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Lady Barber in the Alpine Rock Garden, Culham Court, 1916, painted by Nestor Cambier

What particularly caught my eye were the archive photographs of the couple. They are charming and also a snapshot of an early 20th Century period when the gentry were bathed in infinite luxury of fine clothes, art and magnificently adorned houses, now being portrayed in programmes like Downton Abbey.

Those interested in fashion will also enjoy seeing the photos of Edwardian and art deco clothing and accessories.
Lady Barber, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Sir Henry and Lady Barber in fancy-dress costume, circa 1910

Historians will be particularly interested a section of the exhibition exploring the Barbers' connections with the University of Birmingham, which led to the Institute of Fine Arts becoming Lady Barber's gift.

The Portrait of a Lady: The Life and Passions of Lady Barber exhibition runs at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TS, until February 24, 2013.
This is a free exhibition.
Monday – Friday: 10am – 5pm;
Saturday & Sunday: 11am – 5pm

The entrance is off Edgbaston Park Road on the University of Birmingham site, opposite the entrance to King Edward VI School.
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Why? Interesting thing to see for free
When: Every day until February 24
Phone: 0121 414 7333
Where: Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Cost: Free
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