AN EXTENSIVE LANDSCAPE VIEW AT SUNSET
Signed in pencil l.l.
41 x 63 cm
George Barret Jr. was the son of the rewnowned Irish-born founder member of the Royal Academy, "the greatest landscape painter whom Ireland, England, or Scotland had till then produced" (1).
He studied first under his father, who died when he was only 17, and his earliest works show his indebtedness to Sr.'s landscape oils. He quickly established a reputation for his watercolours however and began to paint primarily in this medium and on a small scale (although some of his best-known works are oils in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, several of them comparatively large). Like his father, Barret Jr. largely focused on lanscape painting. He was working at a time when these were gaining greater popularity as a subject in Britain, in particular those of Romantic and Continental subjects. Perhaps in part because of his father's ineptitude with money (he had died bankrupt) George accomadated the popular taste to the point that Ruskin accused him of over-repetition. That being said, when he was at his best, Barret Jr. was not just commercially-minded but was carrying on what Claude had started in his depictions of light and colour: "George Barret numbers among the most influential draftsmen of his generation. In his idyllic landscape watercolours, Barret sought to replicate the golden tones of varnished oil paintings by Claude Lorraine and Nicolas Poussin" (2).
He would often sketch compulsively at sunrise and sunset, hoping to record the minutiae of these times' effects on the sky and sun. Barret Jr. exhibited at the Royal Academy his father had helped to establish for only three years (1800-1803), as he himself was one of the earliest members of another society, the Society of Painters in Watercolour (later the O.W.S, now the R.W.S.) in 1804 and thenceforth exhibited there for 38 consecutive years. Unlike his father he was frugal but reputedly never asked enough money for his works, so that he also battled financial insecurity throughout his life, despite his reputation and the demand for his works.
Today his works can be found in many public collections including the British Museum, Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York among others.
(1) Thomas Bodkin, Four Irish landscape painters, Dublin (1920), p.1 (2) John Louis Roget, History of the Old Watercolour Society, Vol. 1, London (1891)