Barbara Lilian Snook (1913-1976)

The Oxo Tower is shown to right of above image. The building to which it belongs was originally constructed towards the end of the 19th century as a power station to supply electricity to the Royal Mail post office. It was subsequently acquired in the 1920s by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, manufacturers of Oxo beef stock cubes, for conversion into a cold store.

The building was largely rebuilt to an Art Deco design by company architect Albert Moore between 1928 and 1929, and the chimney turned into a slender crowned tower. OXO envisaged a sign running up the tower but planning permission was refused, so Moore designed illuminated windows for it in the shape of a vertically stacked OXO sign.

authordebbieyoung posted on April 8, 2013:

“The Oxo Tower, now a fancy restaurant with panoramic views across London,  was a familiar landmark on the commuter railway from our suburban home in Sidcup to Charing Cross. At secondary school*, tasked with painting a city skyline, I incorporated a meticulous rendition of the Oxo Tower. I was incredulous when my elderly art teacher, Miss Barbara Snook, objected. What was not to love about the Oxo Tower? Not only was the architecture Art Deco, but the lettering was pleasingly palindromic.

Miss Snook admitted that she loved the Oxo Tower; I suspected they’d shared their heyday. But then she memorably explained her reasoning:

“In any painting, try not to include words, because the eye is automatically drawn to the text to read it and is diverted from the rest of your picture.”

She was right. I’ve often recalled her advice in art galleries, distracted by labels, and wished I’d shown more respect for her wise words at the time. It was only after leaving school that I discovered that she was also a world authority on embroidery. Years later, as a belated tribute to her wisdom, I bought from a secondhand shop a book that she’d written about needlework; I treasure it still.”

*Chislehurst Grammar School for Girls, Kent.

The collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington, include:

Trolley cloth

Place of origin: Chislehurst (made)

Date: 1956 (made)

Artist/Maker: Snook, Barbara (embroiderer)

Gallery location: In Storage

Physical description: Trolley cloth of grey rayon embroidered in stranded cotton in Bosnia stitch, four-sided stitch and back stitch.

Dimensions: Width: 14.25 in, Length: 23.5 in

Kelly Fletcher, a needlework designer in Johannesburg, quotes Snook:

“So many stitches are beautiful and interesting to work that the embroideress who is prepared to abandon the unimaginative use of stem, chain, satin and petit point will soon find how richly she is rewarded.” – Barbara Snook, author of Embroidery Stitches (Batsford, 1963)

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