Rowan James (1937-2005)
Rowan James was born Jasmine Georgianna Mary Violet Rowe in the Channel Island of Guernsey. She was a free spirit who, after leaving school, trained as an artist. She changed her name to Rowan James on leaving the islands as a way of severing herself from her past. Her interest in and appreciation of contemporary artists drew her to St Ives in order to continue her studies and to paint.
In 1973 Rowan was introduced to Wilhelmina Barns-Graham as a possible studio assistant. Initially Wilhelmina was not overly enthusiastic about taking on an assistant but Rowan proved herself to be a practical and helpful individual who came to play a vital role in Wilhelmina’s life. Rowan moved to Scotland to run Balmungo House and over the ensuing years took on more and more responsibilities in managing Barns-Graham’s professional career. She was Wilhelmina’s business manager, framer, and confidante.
There is no doubt that the later successes and accolades that Wilhelmina received is in part due to Rowan’s selfless dedication. She was the one who negotiated with galleries and museums, ensuring that Barns-Graham’s art was presented to the highest standards, and organised for the publication of Lynne Green’s seminal monograph W. Barns-Graham : a studio life. Rowan’s efforts contributed significantly to the re-appraisals that the artist’s life and work has received in recent times.
Rowan set aside her own career as a painter in taking on this role. Her work was never exhibited and remained hidden away in the recesses of Balmungo House. These came to light as work was being done at the house in 2006. A sampling, in tribute, is represented here.