Oswald Charles Barrett (1892-1945), known as 'Batt'
While producing a wide range of drawings and paintings, Oswald Barrett became best known for his biographical portraits of great composers, which he signed ‘Batt’.
Oswald Barrett was born in London to a father who was ‘an authority on Oriental art’ and ‘steeped in the lore and history of London’ (Charles Benjamin Purdon, How Should We Rebuild London?, London: J M Dent & Sons, 1945, page ix, a book that was illustrated by Batt).
Barrett was educated at St George’s School, Ramsgate, and began his studies at Camden School of Art, Dalmeny Avenue, publishing his first drawing in The Bystander in 1911. During the First World War, he served with the 1/1st Kent Battalion on the North-West Frontier. Returning to his studies at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, 75 Newman Street, and then Goldsmiths’ College School of Art, he shared a studio for a while with Eric Fraser.
Illustrating Current Literature for two years, from 1926 to 1928, Barrett began to contribute to The Radio Times in 1930, and continued to do so until his death 15 years later. He also illustrated a number of books, including Percy Scholes’ The Oxford Companion to Music (1938). He remains best known for his portraits of musicians, the drawings of composers which he did for The Radio Times being so popular that the BBC published special issues for framing. Twenty years after his death, an exhibition of his ‘musical work’, including all The Radio Times portraits, was held at the Royal Festival Hall in London.