William Gerard Barry
Versatile Irish Artist, Noted for Portraiture, Landscapes and Genre Scenes: Biography and Paintings.

Time Flies (1887).
By William Gerard Barry.
One of the great Irish Artists of
the 19th Century.

William Gerard Barry (1864-1941)

The early life of Cork painter William Gerard Barry was relatively normal. Born in Ballyadam, Carrigtwohill, County Cork, the second of seven children of a local magistrate. Demonstrating a natural talent for drawing, he studied at the Cork School of art under the renowned Henry Jones Thaddeus (1859-1929), who encouraged Barry to further his studies in Paris. Thus at 22, like other Irish artists such as Sarah Purser (1848-1943), Richard Moynan (1856-1906), John Lavery (1856-1941), Dermod O'Brien (1865-1945) and Paul Henry (1876-1958), Barry enrolled for one year at the Académie Julian, living a typical bohemian life in the artistic quarter of Montmartre. The following year (1887), he moved to the artist colony at Etaples in Calais region - where his fellow Irish painter Frank O'Meara (1853-88) was also painting.

For a list of the top painters
of Ireland, please see:
Irish Artists: 19th Century
Irish Artists: 20th Century.

It was in Etaples that he painted 'Time Flies' (Crawford Gallery), which he successfully submitted to the Royal Dublin Society, winning the £30 Taylor Scholarship for his trouble. In 1888 Barry returned to Ireland, but promptly had a serious fall-out with his father - presumably over money - causing him to leave Cork and work his passage to Canada.

This marked the beginning of his nomadic period, during which he worked his way through Canada to the United States, and thereafter to many countries including the South Sea islands of the Pacific. In North America he survived by working as a ranch-hand and sign painter, and numerous portrait commissions including, reputedly, one of President Wilson which was hung in the White House. Eventually, he settled in France, in a rented studio on the Riviera, occupying himself mostly with portraiture in oils and also charcoal. In his last years, he retired to St. Jean-de-Luz, a village in the French Pyrenees, where he suffered a fatal accident at the age of 77. Due to Barry's foreign wanderings and lifestyle, his works are largely unknown and thus extremely rare. However, his few surviving paintings indicate serious talent, in a plein air style at times comparable with O'Meara and Lavery. His sea views are also reminiscent of those by Augustus Burke (1838-91) and Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940).

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• For the evolution of Irish fine arts, see History of Irish Art.
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• For a review of landscape art, see Irish Landscape Artists.

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