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George Barret

[the younger]

(London, 1767 - 19 March 1842, Paddington)

GeorgeA founding member of the Old Society of Painters in Water-Colours in 1805 and the author of "The Theory and Practice of Water-Colour Painting" (1840), George Barret numbers among the most influential draftsmen of his generation. In his idyllic landscape watercolors, Barret sought to replicate the golden tones of varnished oil paintings by Claude Lorraine (1600–1682) and Nicolas Poussin (1593/94–1665). Here, a mass of fiery leaves, its irregular pattern achieved through superimposed layers of fluid washes, fills the center of the composition and contrasts with the subtler yellow tones of a distant farmhouse and rustic bridge. Amid the warm harmony of reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens, the shepherd's bright blue cap sounds the single cool note.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY


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Barret was so bent first and foremost and beyond all on obtaining his effects of light and colour that he was apt to be comparatively careless of his figures, though, when he chose, he could draw them well enough. His trees also are often conventional in form and spotty in the foliage. But he never failed in his chief aim. Though his pictures were generally small and his usual medium water-colour, he sometimes painted in oil, and executed at least one very large oil painting, which has been presented to the nation by Mr. Orrock, and is now in the South Kensington Museum, a rich composition with a luminous sky reflected in a lake.

It is strange how little is known of this fine artist. He was the son of George Barret, R.A., already mentioned in these papers, who died in pecuniary difficulties and left his family pensioners of the Royal Academy. What this family consisted of, and when George Barret, junior, was born, are not known apparently, but he had one brother and a sister who both painted in water-colours. The latter was a pupil of George Romncy, according to Grave's Dictionary, and of Mrs. Mee, according to Redgrave's. Both appear to have been older than George, who was born about 1774, and first appears in history as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1800. He continued to exhibit there occasionally till 1843, but it was to the Water-colour Society that he was the most constant and large contributor. Notwithstanding a life of constant labour, he 'striving rather for excellence than gain, only earned enough to meet the daily wants of his family. So he, like his father before him, though apparently with much more excuse, left his family in poverty. He died in 1842 after a long illness.

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George Barret, Jnr. (1767–1842) was an English landscape painter, and a son of the Irish artist.

Almost certainly taught by his father, he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1800-1803. He was an early member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours when it was founded in 1804, and exhibited prolifically, never missing an exhibition for 38 years. Little is known of his early years, except that in 1767 he was born in Orchard Street in London, off Portman Square, where his father lived after moving from his native Ireland. George Barret was seventeen when he and his brothers and sisters were left fatherless, and had to support themselves by their own efforts. Three of them, beside himself, took to the practice of art, but George was by far the most gifted artistically.

His earlier works were views of the Thames Valley and Home Counties and a few of Wales, but he increasingly turned to romantic compositions of a Claudian type showing poetic sunrises and sunsets without reference to locality. A truly visionary painter, his artistic power remained unimpaired to the last, even though his life was one long struggle against financial ruin.

He lived most of his life in Paddington, where he died on 19 March 1842. He was buried in the ancient churchyard of St. Mary's, Paddington.

J.L. Roget. History of the Old-Watercolour Society, vol 1 (London, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1891)

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George Barret Jr Landscape with BridgeGeorge Barret Jr Landscape with Bridge George Barret Jr Composition SunsetGeorge Barrett Jr Composition Sunset George Barret River Landscape.George Barret River Landscape
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View painter's work: George Barret, Jr.
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If we are to be excused for rejecting the arts, it must not be because we are contented to be less than men,
but because we long to be more than men." William Morris.

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