Obituary: Philip Barlow

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The Independent Culture
PHILIP BARLOW moved into art and design education from the museum services in the early Sixties, at the time when the recommendations of the Coldstream Report on advanced courses in art and design were about to be implemented. One of the recommendations required that studies in history of art and complementary (academic) studies were to form a fundamental element of all courses.

In 1962 Barlow was appointed to be the first Head of the School established to provide these studies at Birmingham College of Art and Design - which in 1970 became Birmingham Polytechnic, and is now the University of Central England. For him it was a move that was to be immensely rewarding and which was to occupy him in building up the school, its staffing and its work and eventually full-time courses, over the next 20 years.

To this work he brought a refreshingly different approach at the onset of this unique period of change in art education. No one could have been better qualified to introduce the new ideas necessary or to create the working relationships with staff in other departments essential for the success of these studies.

Gentle, likeable and with great understanding, he expanded the experience and perception of both students and staff through his influence. His particular teaching interests were in 19th-century French painting, Far Eastern art, the history of graphic design (he researched 19th-century illustrated magazines) and art since 1920. His ability to instil his love of learning in others was remarkable. He could propound and develop broad ideas in terms which were pitched with precision to develop students' understanding; while his quiet interjections solved many seemingly intractable problems during staff committee meetings.

Born in St Helens, Lancashire, in 1924, Barlow read Philosophy at Birmingham University. His studies were interrupted by service in the Second World War, in which he was wounded. Completing the course after the war, he obtained his degree in 1949 and took an academic diploma in History of Art in 1952 at the Courtauld Institute in London.

He was briefly Assistant Keeper of Art at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and became Assistant Keeper of Art at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, in 1953, a post he held until his appointment to Birmingham College of Art and Design.

He was a member of the History of Art and Complementary Studies Subject Board and of the Creative and Performing Arts Board of the Council for National Academic Awards, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Art Historians and chairman of its Art Education Group from 1973 to 1977.

Among his many publications were "Haydon and the Radicals" for the Burlington Magazine (1957); "Richard Wilson" for The Connoisseur (1957); "Complementary Studies" for Liberal Education (1968); contributions to the Oxford Junior Encyclopaedia (passim, 1954 and 1964); Catalogue of Oil Paintings, National Museum of Wales (1954, with John Steegman); and exhibition catalogues for the Arts Council Welsh Office (Dutch Genre Paintings, 1956, How Impressionism Began, 1956, British Art and the Modern Movement, with Alan Bowness, 1962) and the National Museum of Wales (Ideal and Classical Landscape, 1960).

By the end of the 1970s the cares and stresses of departmental management at Birmingham proliferated, and beset him with problems which took him away frequently from his teaching. By now, too, he was suffering from indifferent health and he retired early, in 1982. This enabled him to enjoy once again his academic pursuits and travel and, more particularly, his beloved garden, magnificently set high on the Lickey Hills. This he tended with the same loving care that he had devoted to his teaching and to his students.

Philip John Barlow, art historian; born St Helens, Lancashire 11 August 1924; Head of the School of History of Art and Complementary Studies, Birmingham College of Art and Design (later Birmingham Polytechnic) 1962- 82; married 1951 Eve Young (one daughter); died Redditch, Worcestershire 21 November 1998.