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Image from Snow White

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Angela Barrett, Snow White by Josephine Poole, first published in Britain by Hutchinson Children's Books, 1991, illustrations © Angela Barrett


We interviewed Angela Barrett in her home in London. Conducting the interview was Bridget McKenzie (BM). You can also download a rich text version of the interview to print off.

There are seven areas that she talked about. Check the activities on each page, and read the interview sections underneath for Angela's thoughts on each question.

Activity 1: 'And that's why it's in sort of never-never land'.

  • What are the advantages of setting a story in a never-never land?
  • How does it help the artist and the reader?
  • When or why might an artist want to be more precise about the 'authenticity' of a setting?
  • Can you imagine Snow White in a 21st century setting?
  • Can you sketch a scene of the story like that? Does it work?

Angela Barrett's thoughts

Angela Barrett: I love fairy stories because you can just bung in what you like. I mean, the curious thing about Snow White is when we began it, my editor said, 'how are you going to set it? How about a mediaeval setting?', and I said 'Well, if you don't mind, I'd rather not set it in any particular period.' And that's why it's in sort of never-never land. But it can't help but have historical references.

BM: It feels more nineteenth century than anything else.

Angela Barrett: Yes, the dancing master there was a line which was subsequently cut from the text that said that this old gentleman came to teach her music and dance and that he wore funny black clothes, and I thought, now, in what way would they be funny? They could be eighteenth century.completely out of the wrong period.

BM: So you were able to influence the text?

Angela Barrett: No, I wasn't. That bit just went, and I thought, oh, I rather liked that bit. And people [editors/authors] do things like that, actually. It's amazing. People cut things. There's a story in which a hart in the forest is shot with a bow and arrow, and she's shot in the leg and bleeds to death. And you think, yes, I suppose one could reach death from being shot in the leg. So I drew this hart, this beautiful white hart, lying in a thicket with her legs tucked under, and one of them with a quite distinct red wound on. And, of course, someone came along and changed it and said that the hart was shot in the head! This was without any reference to my picture, which I'd already done, and it just went through. And there it is in the book, and it just makes me look like a complete idiot!

BM: What influences you? Are you interested in Remedios Varo [Surrealist woman artist]?

Angela Barrett: I don't know, because I don't know the work at all. I'm very ignorant. I like Stanley Spencer a lot. I don't like him as much as I used to. I like Max Klinger and Goya...

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