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GEORGE BARRET Jr., O.W.S. (1767-1842)

GEORGE BARRET Jr., O.W.S. (1767-1842)


Watercolour with gum arabic and scratching out

19.5 x 25.5 cm



Private collection, Ireland




George Barret Jr. was the son of the renowned Irish-born founder member of the Royal Academy. 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, George largely focused on landscape painting. He was working at a time when such works 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 accommodated this fashion to the point that Ruskin rather unfairly accused him of repetitiveness. In spite of the critic's remarks, when he was at his best, the artist was not just commercially minded, but was carrying on the grand tradition of classical landscape painting in the distinctly British field of watercolours: "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" [1]. He would often sketch compulsively at sunrise and sunset, hoping to record the minutiae of these times' effects on the sky and sun. The present view, with its cursory allusion to the classical in the form of a ruined temple, an atmosphere suffused with a warmth and distinctive use of gum arabic fixative that lends a glossy sheen to the undergrowth, is absolutely typical of Barret's imagined landscapes,




    [1] Huon Mallalieu, 'Barret, George (1767–1842)', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford (2004); online edition, May 2007

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