Sir Francis Barry – The Forgotten British Master –

Sir Francis Barry – The Forgotten British Master –

Victoire Feux d'Artifices, Moscow by Francis Barry

Victoire Feux d'Artifices, Moscow by Francis Barry

One of the things that excites me more than anything else is discovering an artist who has not yet received the recognition that they deserve and having the opportunity to help that artist achieve the success that their work is worthy of receiving. Usually these artists are emerging contemporary artists who are just beginning their career as professional artists but I was recently introduced to the work of an artist who has been dead for almost 40 years – an artist who is essentially a forgotten master. The artist in question is the prodigious Sir Claude Francis Barry R.B.A, a British painter and etcher born in 1883 who produced a varied body of work that appears to be have been influenced most strongly by Fauvism and Neo-Impressionism (also known as pointillism), but also exhibited characteristics reminiscent of the work of the Vorticists (British branch of Futurism) and Art Nouveauists.

At this point I presume you may be wondering why, if Barry was such a fantastic artist, he did not experience the fame that he deserved. The answer is rather simple: he didn’t need it. You see, Barry was born into a wealthy family and did not need to become famous and command large sums for his work in order to put food on the table. Very little is known about Barry’s life but what is known is rather intriguing from the family squabbles to the tutelage he received from Sir Alfred East RA and Frank Brangwyn. Considering that what is known about Barry’s life is so compelling it is unusual that he was not more well known than he was for his high-society high jinx. I won’t provide details about his life just yet but will reveal more in future posts.

Carcassonne by Francis Barry

Carcassonne by Francis Barry

The auction record for a work by Barry is £81,600 IBP (US$143,616) against an estimate of £10,000 – £15,000 ($17,600 – $26,400) achieved for his epic painting ‘Victoire Feux d’Artifices, Moscow’ which was sold by Sotheby’s in October 2005. Works by Barry rarely come on to the market but when they do the success of the sale depends on whether any of the small number of people who know of Barry’s work are aware of the sale and are able to bid on the work in question. A stoush between two rival Barry officianados can raise the auction sale price of one of his works as is evident with the sale of ‘Victoire Feux d’Artifices, Moscow’ but sometimes his works appear at auction and are sold for a very small amount.

There is no doubt in my mind that Barry was a prodigious artist who, due to a number of factors, simply fell through the cracks of the art world and I am extremely excited to be able to be involved in the long overdue recognition and promotion of his work. You will be hearing lots more about Barry from me in the very near future so stay tuned. If you want further details please email me.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

3 Responses

  1. Nickolas,

    Great article and excellent blog! I am impressed by Francis Berry’s work.

    You are right, there are some emerging names that aren’t known to the public. One of them is the young Russian painter Irina Gornostaeva:

    I am impressed by the radiant energy of her works, and by her rigorous academic training.

    The realist school hasn’t been too popular, but it’s picking up here in Russia.

    Moscow, Russia

  2. Hi Nicholas,

    You can definately see the influence of Brangwyn in Carcassonne, and the palette is also reminiscent of the industrial posters of the machine age that were being produced in the period.

    Please forgive me, but I’d just like to point out that Vorticism was not the ‘British branch of Futurism’ as you state in the first paragraph, and the Vorticists even signed and published a letter that proclaimed that they did not want to be associated with the Italian movement in anyway. The only English artist to officially align himself with the Futurists was C.R.W Nevinson who signed the ‘Vital English Art’ manifesto with Marinetti – the leader of the Futurist movement.

    Granted, the two styles may superficially resemble each other, however when properly examined, the compostions are radically different; Futurism favoured dynamic movement, whereas Vorticism generally centred around a centrifugal point or ‘vortex’, hence the name of the movement.

    Best wishes,

    Chris Agnew,

  3. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the comment. Regardless of whether the Vorticists did not want to be associated with the Furitists the fact remains that they were. My comment that the Vorticists were the British branch of Futurism will therefore stand as I think it is a valid and correct statement.


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