Born in Sydney, Barbara Tribe studied sculpture under Rayner Hoff at East Sydney Technical College, and in 1935, aged 22, she became the first woman and first sculptor to receive the New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship, which she used to come to England. Here she continued her studies, starting first at the RA Schools, London. Soon after WWII, Barbara visited West Cornwall and fell in love with it, taking up a part-time post teaching at the Penzance School of Art, where her husband also taught ceramics. In 1947, after purchasing a former Baptist Sunday School in Sheffield near Penzance while on holiday, the couple married in London, and moved to West Cornwall permanently.
Barbara joined the NSA, with whom she exhibited annually, and made friends with many of its members, especially Bernard LEACH, Eric HILLER and Charles BREAKER, Sheila Cavell HICKS and others. Her husband died suddenly in 1961, and Barbara continued to live in 'The Studio' which they created and populated - not unlike a large, packed museum - with their work. In her varied career she held six major solo exhibitions from 1934 -1991, the final one entitled 'Alice to Penzance' at The Mall Galleries, London, where she showed 80 original works.
'The theme of organic growth attracts me - the cycle of life - anything that stirs and lives; the human figure, animals, birds, plants, insects. My work, traditional or semi-abstract, retains the human touch.' Working in all materials, from terracotta, bronze, stone, wood to metal and ceramics, she believed form to be most important, observing the contours and material when creating her works: 'I try to look at things as though seeing for the first time.' Barbara's curiosity led her to embark on a study of aboriginal art, and prompted her to travel extensively in later life. She always kept in close touch with her Australian roots, and after her retirement from the Penzance School of Art in 1988, she returned there on many occasions.
In 1998 she received the Jean Masson Davidson Medal from the Society of Portrait Sculptors in London - an international award 'for distinguished services and outstanding achievement in portrait sculpture'.
Her works sold at Bonhams in 2008 generated funds for the Barbara Tribe Foundation, set up under Tribe's will to further the development and appreciation of sculpture in Australia, to be administered by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
Sculptor, potter, painter, teacher
works and access
See McDonald (2000) for long list of public collectons in Australia. In UK work can be seen at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, and the Spode Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent. Her work is in many private collections, and her studio sale (curiously in light of her long residency in Cornwall) was held in 2008 in Sherborne, Dorset at the Charterhouse Salerooms.
In Cornwall, regularly with the NSA and Penwith Societies, and also with the Penzance School of Art. Her home, in a disused Sunday School in Sheffield, nr St Buryan, was also a permanent exhibition studio.
NSA 1972-3 list, 1995 list
Penwith Society of Artists
Penzance School of Art
misc further info
Drawing by BT in Hypatia Trust Collection.
Personal: Bonhams, Knightsbridge, London (2008) Works from the Studio of Barbara Tribe, 20 May Auction Catalogue
McDonald, Patricia R (2000) Barbara Tribe - Sculptor Sydney, Australia: Craftsman House
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn/Diary (col portrait of sculptor at work)
Hoyle, H (Jan 2013 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) Barbara Tribe - A Sculptor's Life
Hoyle, H (Dec 2013 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) Barbara Tribe Revisited
McLeod, Alister J (1973) Newlyn Society of Artists 1895-1973 (NAG 12 page brochure)
Whybrow (1986) Forms and Faces: Sculptors in SW Cornwall;