On what would have been his 70th birthday, we look back at the life of Syd Barrett, who fronted Pink Floyd in their psychedelic early days, and later enjoyed a solo career that was studded with brilliance. These pictures originally appeared alongside love letters and original artworks in the exhibition ‘Syd Barrett: Art And Letters’ at The Idea Generation in 2011 and in the book, ‘Barrett: The Definitive Visual Companion’, by Essential Works.
Here’s Syd Barrett and Frisky the cat in 1964.
This early image is of Syd, Bob Klose, Chris Dennis and Roger Waters (l-r) performing as “The Tea Set” at a private house party. This was one of the first gigs Syd played with other Pink Floyd members.
Another photograph of The Tea Set from 1964.
Here’s the band in 1965, then called The Pink Floyd Sound. “Syd would be so surprised and pleased to know this exhibition is taking place,” says his sister, Rosemary Breen. “He was never more content than when sketching or painting, be it cartoons, abstracts or still life. Syd felt above all he was an artist and loved experimenting with different mediums, sometimes just to see what might happen!”
Here’s Syd, in 1965, with his Fender Esquire. Photographer Nick Aarestrup Roddik recalls shooting the band at The Boom Dancing Center in 1967: “I was standing at the front but couldn’t move, I could only take pictures of Syd Barrett and Nick Mason. After the concert, Syd Barrett said: ‘Why do the audience scream so much? Why don’t they clap?”
Here’s the gang in 1965. “Syd Barrett’s continued fame as a musician would have surprised someone who spent the majority of his life as a
painter & writer, and who valued newness over all else,” says Will Shutes, the exhibit’s coordinator. “The exhibition presents the most vivid picture that we are likely to ever see and is above all, something new.”
This photograph was taken on December 16, 1966 at the Architectural Association Christmas Ball in Bedford Square, London.
This picture, taken December 1967, marks the beginning of David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd membership.
This image of Syd is from April 1968, just around the same time it was offcially announced that he had left Pink Floyd. “This is an exhibition that celebrates the lesser known side of the life of Syd Barrett, a true creative talent,” says Eloise Rowley, Idea Generation Gallery Manager.
In Autumn 1969, legendary rock photographer Storm Thorgerson shot this picture in Syd’s Earl’s Court flat. This photo session was for the cover of Syd’s 1970 album, ‘The Madcap Laughs’.
Another pic taken from his ‘The Madcap Laughs’ album cover shoot, this photograph was taken by Mick Rock. Here, we see Syd with his car, outside Wetherby Mansions, Earl’s Court Square, London (Autumn 1969).
Syd began creating art in his early school days and later attended London’s Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. Here’s Syd posing with some of his work in Spring 1964.
This is Syd’s self-portrait, painted from 1961-1962. He used oil paint on a 31 × 23 cm board.
This is another earlier work of Syd’s – an untitled soft ground etching on paper from 1963. It wasn’t until after Syd had left the band in 1968 that he was able to return to painting.
Another untitled piece of Syd’s artwork (acrylic on board). The pieces of art on display at this exhibit span from 1962 to Syd’s death in 2006.
For this piece of art, Syd used hand-cut glass tesserae on painted plaster. At the exhibit, you can also find old love letters (including ones to his first girlfriends, Libby and Jenny), which reveal his more intimate, loving side. The notes on display also reveal more of the story behind the birth of Pink Floyd.
You can still pick up a copy of Barrett, The Definitive Visual Companion. Click here to find out more on the Essential Works publication.