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James Barry

2 of 103 portraits by William Evans

James Barry, by William Evans, circa 1805 -NPG 441 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Barry

by William Evans
circa 1805
6 in. x 4 in. (152 mm x 102 mm)
NPG 441

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, [1] 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, [2] William Blake [3] and J. M. Brighty [4] 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’. [5]

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.

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