History of the guild


Barnet Guild of Artists was established in 1948, following an exhibition of local artists' work organised by Agnes Allen, a local teacher of art, and others, and was held at the Queen Elizabeth's Girls School.
Interest in the exhibition was high, and a subsequent meeting of artists and visitors led to the founding of the Guild.

The Guild held its own exhibition the following year, 1949, and this event has continued every year since then.

The Studio

In the early years, meetings were held in local schools and adult education centres, but accommodation was often less than satisfactory.

In 1961 Gwyneth Cowing, one of the founder members, provided the Guild with its own studio in the grounds of her home at Whalebones House. Members of the Guild equipped the studio, making all the easels which are still in use today.

At Gwyneth Cowing's death in 1987, she ensured the future of the studio by setting up the Whalebones Trust, administered by her family and legal representative, to maintain the estate for the use of the Guild and other community groups, including the Brownies and Barnet Beekeepers.


Founder Members

Two of the founder members, Agnes Allen and Gwyneth Cowing were talented artists and some of their work is shown below. These paintings are currently owned by Barnet Museum who have kindly given the guild permission to display them here. They are also available to view on the BBC Your Paintings website.

"Battle of Barnet" by Agnes Allen - oils

"The Salisbury Hotel" by Agnes Allen - oils

"Hadley Green" by Gwyneth Cowing - oils

"Dyrham Park" by Gwyneth Cowing - oils

"Rear of Barnet Press" by Gwyneth Cowing - oils


From the Guild Archives

A Little Tribute to Gwyneth Cowing

The Barnet Press provided guide
At the time Miss Cowing died
A survey, on this sad bereavement
On her life of great achievement

The "Press" itself was full of praise
For her good and caring ways
We heard from members of her staff
How she thought on their behalf
And Societies and friends
How she chose to help their ends.

Though, of course to work committed,
In and out of this she knitted
Fervent views on things essential,
Maybe, acting residential.

At home, she loved her little garden
Set out like a little Arden,*
Every simple charming notion
Thought about with great devotion.
The handyman worked well out there
Following orders with great care.
Here she took her friends around,
Sometimes artists did abound.

For them a conjoured studio
Where a-painting they might go;
Freely, they might try their hands,
Frequently, she joined the bands.
Hornsey trained, it gave her pleasure
With her friends to join at leisure.

When the days were fair and calm
They might paint around the farm,
Find an interesting nook
Or with pad, or sketching book
Swiftly note a poise or pose
Of standing horse, duck comatose,
And on hot or lazy days
Marvel at contented ways,
Go home the leafy chestnut way
Where daffodils had had their day

Gwyn saw the present century
Bringing different things to be.
She loved the Barnet olden days,
The green fields, and easy ways,
Old estates, and visits, walks - -
So much there for giving talks - -
Sorry for the young of nation
Living in a conurbation,

Hemmed in by the motorcar
Now they cannot roam so far.
One reason why she made a stand
For local preservations planned.
She would also keep the green belt,
Benefits for others felt.

Guiding and the Trefoil Guild
Saw another need fulfilled;
She made over Stable Room
Where the Whalebones Group could come
Working for their badges hard
And cooking over sticks in yard.

In the Stable Room so neat
Others came to talk or eat
Established beekeepers with zest
Came along with honey best.
Sometimes ion the winter weather
Lately, artists came together.
There, with greetings warm and hearty
Used it for the Christmas party --
With Cockfosters Ladies Choir? --
Always with a bright log fire.

In and out with praise and rhyme
This season is a pausing time,
You list to all they chose to say
On the day she went away.
You trace a life of some good luck,
Much goodwill, and sense, and pluck,
Always with the best intention
Listening and good direction.

For this momen, all is penned,
And my screed will have its end.

Emma Absalom

* Arden - see Shakespeare - As You Like It. The Old Duke's speech, Act II Scene I. In the Forest of Arden.

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything".


Ted's Paintbox

(with acknowledgement to Stanley Holloway)


Now I'll tell you a tale of our Edward*,
Who, nigh on his fortieth year,
Took up painting pictures as hobby
To save him from going on t' beer.

So he upped and joined Guild of Artists
And a very queer crowd he found there
One fellow could paint, while the others
Did their best with black beards and long hair.

*Edward (Ted) Barnes, a former Hon Secretary

The name of the Chairman was Leonard**
A bloke who was fond of his joke
If he'd worked as hard as he chattered
He'd have covered more ground than Van Goch.

In charge of the Vice was young Philip
He didn't like pictures too new
Three centuries old and some cobwebs
He reckoned by then that they'd do.

**Len Hunt, a former Chairman of the Guild

There were ladies too in this venture
And one of them known as our Agg***
Painted hunting scenes of great splendour
Fifty hounds, two trees and a nag.

And another who caused a sensation
Known to all as Winifred Rob
Would sell you a frame for a fiver
And throw in her work for five bob.

***Agnes Allen, a founder member of the Guild

Now Edward was comely and 'andsome
He'd been painted by one of the nobs
So he tried to cut-dash with the ladies
By painting their portraits in blobs.

Bu his efforts to paint were a failure
Though he strained both his nerve and his muscle
So he went with the rest to do figure
With a clever old geezer named Russel****.

**** Russel Reeve, a former President of the Guild

Now when all of the class was assembled
And eager to start on their task
Old Leonard knocked over Ted's paintbox
When reaching behind for his flask

This made our Edward so angry
He cried out at what Leonard had done
"Your standing on my burnt sienna
Pick 'em up before they all run.

But Leonard said "I am the Chairman"
In a voice that was haughty and cool
"I don't pick up paints for beginners -
Don't miss that Flake White near the stool"

At this Ted got madder and madder
And the hairs stood right out on his neck
"If no one picks up this here paint box
You can go somewhere else for Hon. Sec."

They all tried to pacify Edward
But pacified he wouldn't be
So they called on the Master to help them
He was supping a cup of hot tea

Russel spoke, Oh so quiet and so gentle
"Now Ted, Ted, do as your told
The class is all eager for painting
Besides, bloody model's got cold".

Ted's nobless oblige was notorious
Good manners he never could skip
So he bent down and picked up his paintbox
And threw blanket o'er model's right hip.

He said to the others "I'm sorry
To keep you in awful suspense"
Then unsheathed his favourite hog's bristle
And said "Now let painting commence".

Tom Gosling