2 of 8 portraits of James Barry
- Extended catalogue entry
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue
by William Evans
6 in. x 4 in. (152 mm x 102 mm)
Inscriptionback to top
Inscribed in pencil James Barry R.A. (the inscription on a folded area)
This portraitback to top
Picart’s engraving, used as the frontispiece for Barry’s Works, described NPG 441 as drawn ‘from an original Cast, taken a short time before his Death’ (a contemporary annotation in the NPG copy of Barry’s Works alters ‘short’ to ‘some’). The mask referred to was conceivably made, as Pressly first supposed,  by W. J. Coffee in preparation for a Coade stone bust. Through Picart’s engraving, it became the most familiar image of Barry, and drawings by John Jackson,  William Blake  and J. M. Brighty  were based upon it.
Despite his appearance in NPG 441, Barry’s final years were spent in isolation and fearful squalor. Robert Southey remembered him c.1803 wearing a faded old coat of green baize ‘covered with incrustations of paint and dirt’, living alone ‘in a house which was never cleaned’ and afraid to venture out by day lest ‘the Academicians would waylay him and murder him’. 
Footnotesback to top
1) W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, pp 225n34, 301.
2) Private collection; W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, p 302.
3) In a copy of Barry’s Account of a series of Pictures in the Great Room of the Society of Arts, 1783; formerly in the collection of Sir Geoffrey Keynes (W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, p 301) and considered ‘a characteristic pencil recollection ... of the strange Irishman’s ill-favoured face: that of an idealized bulldog, with villainously low forehead, turn-up nose, and squalid tout ensemble’ (A. Gilchrist, Life of Blake, 1945 ed., pp 41, 370n).
4) Engraved J. Romney, a crude whole length, seated at his easel in a dressing gown. A later derivative engraving by L. Chapon 1867 from a drawing by A. Paquier is listed by W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, p 302.
5) Southey to A. Cunningham, 23 July 1829; Life & Corr. of the Late Robert Southey, 1850, VI, p 54 (quoted by W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, p 188).
Provenanceback to top
Col. Francis Cunningham, from whom purchased 1877.
Reproductionsback to top
C. Picart 1809; a larger plate 1822 (Gallery of Contemporary Portraits); Brocas jr., 181 (Hibernia Mag.).
This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.
View all known portraits for James Barry