Art manager, Framer, Confidante


From 1973 Rowan James worked as Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s studio assistant, supporting her in all aspects of her life and work.

Two images grouped on an orange background. From left to right: an acrylic painting of tall trees with grass in front, one tree has orange leaves; a photograph of Rowan James leaning on a stone plinth with a siamese cat sat on top in front of trees.

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.

Rowan’s Role


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.

Rowan James standing on the edge of a gravel path with holding three goats on reins.

Rowan James with goats in the garden at Balmungo

Significant Contribution


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.

Photos of Rowan

Paintings by Rowan James