Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Portrait of Sam Rabin, c. 1925

SKU: 9990

Signed and dated lower right Barnet Freedman August 1925 

Pen, brush and black ink on paper


Height – 63.5cm x Width – 38.1cm


The Artist’s Studio; Abbott and Holder; Simon Lawrence

Exhibited:  Barnett Freedman, Designs for Modern Britain, Pallant House Gallery, 2020.

Literature: Mason, Emma, Barnett Freedman, Designs for Modern Britain, Pallant House Gallery, 2020, p.19

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.172.

The figure kneeling behind, massaging  Rabin’s Knee is Gerald Ososki ‚Äì see cat x – a good friend of both Freedman’s and Rabin’s. Rabin, who was Jewish, was born Samuel Rabinovitch on 20 June 1903 at Dewhurst Street, Cheetham, North Manchester. He was the son of Jacob Rabinovitch (1872‚Äì1962) and Sarah Rabinovitch (née Kraselschikow, 1879‚Äì1961), both Imperial Russian Jewish exiles from Vitebsk (now in Belarus). His father was a cap cutter and later a wholesale milliner; his mother was a jewellery assembler.

During his childhood, the family moved to Salford where Rabin grew up and where his parents encouraged his talent for drawing. In 1914 Rabin won a scholarship to the Manchester Municipal School of Art making him, at the age of 11, the youngest pupil ever to attend the college. There he was taught drawing by French artist Adolphe Valette. In 1921 he moved to the Slade School of Fine Art in London where he continued his studies under Henry Tonks until 1924.

In about 1935, Rabin married Ida Lily Shuster, but they were divorced. In 1956, he married Frances Kaye (formerly Lucienne Karpeles, 1917–1988). The couple had one son, David, born in 1960.

After the Slade, Rabin studied in Paris where he met and was greatly impressed and influenced by sculptor Charles Despiau.  Rabin’s own sculpture from this time is little known as he was a perfectionist and destroyed work that he considered unsatisfactory. In 1928, working under his full surname, he was commissioned by architect Charles Holden to carve West Wind, one of eight personifications of the four winds for the headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London at 55 Broadway.] The sculpture was partly completed in-situ on the building. In 1930, he produced his only other public sculptures; two decorative winged masks, The Past and The Future, for the Daily Telegraph building in Fleet Street. These were carved on the building directly from the scaffold.

Both commissions were well received at the time, but Rabin was unable to make a living as a sculptor and turned to another career – wrestling, for which he abbreviated his surname.

Rabin was physically strong and had boxed and wrestled as an amateur to fund his art. He won a bronze medal in the middleweight division of the free-style wrestling at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Rabin turned professional in 1932 and fought as Rabin the Cat and Sam Radnor the Hebrew Jew across Britain. Alexander Korda cast him as a wrestler in The Private Life of Henry VIII in 1933 and as Mendoza, a Jewish prize-fighter, in The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1934.

Despite lacking any formal musical training, Rabin was a talented baritone and worked professionally during the 1940s singing with Stars in Battledress and sang operatic arias with the army’s Classical Music Group. In 1946 he auditioned for La Scala’s conductor, Victor de Sabata.

In 1949, Rabin began teaching drawing at Goldsmith’s College of Art in New Cross, London. His disciplined teaching style including the production of demonstration works, followed that of his own teacher, Valette. His students included Mary Quant, Bridget Riley and Tom Keating.[1] He left Goldsmith’s in 1965, due to differences over teaching methods and taught at Bournemouth College of Art until 1985 and then at Poole Art Centre until shortly before his death in December 1991.

Little of Rabin’s work from before his time at Goldsmith’s College survived his critical destruction and an accidental destruction by a wartime landlady. Much of what exists are figure studies prepared as demonstrations for students and coloured boxing scenes produced with thickly applied wax crayons of his own making. Rabin exhibited rarely, but had a retrospective at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1985‚Äì86.] He also exhibited at Southampton City Art Gallery 8 Feb-23 March 1986 and Salford Art Gallery 17 April-23 May 1986.

Collections containing his work include the British Museum, the Government Art Collection and the Musée National du Sport in Paris.

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Barnett Freedman
1901 - 1958

Illustrator, painter, printmaker and teacher, Freedman was born to Russian Jewish immigrants living in poverty in the East End of London. In 1916, he worked as draughtsman to a monumental mason, and at the same time took evening classes at St Martin’s School of Art. In 1922, he won a three-year scholarship to the Royal College of Art. In 1928, he joined the staff of the Royal College, and not long afterwards began to teach at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. He soon became a pioneer in the revival of colour lithography. He was an Official War Artist in World War II. By the time of his death Freedman had established an enviable reputation as an illustrator and designer of posters, stamps, books and book-jackets. He believed that there was no such thing as commercial art, ‘only good art and bad art’. His first exhibition was held in 1929 at the Literary Bookshop, Bloomsbury. A memorial exhibition was organised by the Arts Council in 1958. Manchester Polytechnic, which holds the Freedman archive, held a major show in 1990. Examples of his work are in the collection of the Tate Gallery.

With thanks to


SKU: 10982

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Christmas Greetings Card 1956 signed in ink from: Claudia & Barnett Freedman, 1956


SKU: 10983

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Christmas Greetings card 1953


SKU: 10882

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Design for Christmas Card, 1954


SKU: 10613

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Wuthering Heights, proof sheet, 1941


SKU: 10615

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Proof Design Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, 1951


SKU: 10428

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Nude, mid-1920s


SKU: 9483

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

The artist studio with life model and artist at work, late 1920’s


SKU: 9206

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Study for A London Street Scene , late 1920’s


SKU: 8907

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Seated model, deshabillée, mid 1920’s


SKU: 8906

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Street musicians, circa 1926


SKU: 8898

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Life study of two seated young women


SKU: 8901

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Life study with hand on her hip, 3/4 view


SKU: 8902

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Full lenght life study


SKU: 8893

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Streamers and Heads, Drawing for Festival Poster, 1951


SKU: 8894

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Figure study, woman in a woolen suit, circa 1925


SKU: 8897

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Portrait of a woman seated on a chair, 3/4 pose, probably the artist’s wife, circa 1926


SKU: 8359

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Unfolded proof for Christmas Card Messrs. Faber and Faber


SKU: 8353

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Post Early in Christmas Week, 1939


SKU: 8355

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

Unfolded proof for Christmas Card The Leighton-Straker Bookbinding Company, 1955


SKU: 7952

Barnett Freedman (1901 - 1958)

15-inch Gun Turret, HMS Repulse, 1941