Charles Burton Barber, ROI (British, 1845-1894) Only a Shower

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Lot 50
Charles Burton Barber, ROI
(British, 1845-1894)
Only a Shower

£ 120,000 - 180,000
US$ 150,000 - 230,000
Charles Burton Barber, ROI (British, 1845-1894)
Only a Shower
signed and dated 'C. Burton Barber 1884' (lower right); inscribed 'Only a Shower/C. Burton Barber./1 Tichfield Rd North Gate Regent's' (on remnants of a label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
60.9 x 76.2cm (24 x 30in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Thomas McLean, London.
    Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 6 May 1999, lot 64, as No Ride Today.
    Private collection, UK (acquired from the above sale).

    Exhibited
    London, Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, 1884-5, no. 417 (illustrated, no. 34).

    Charles Burton Barber was in some respects the equal of Sir Edwin Landseer... his private pictures for the Queen were the most satisfactory... for a quarter of a century he was 'commanded' to attend the Royal Palaces to paint pictures for Royalty.

    (Harry Furniss, Introduction to The Works of Charles Burton Barber, 1896)

    The present lot is an exceptional example of Victorian genre, by an artist once regarded as the finest painter of animals in Britain. A favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Charles Burton Barber succeeded Landseer as the Queen's Painter of Animals, producing numerous studies of the Queen's pets, as well as of her grandchildren.

    Barber attended the Royal Academy Schools as a young man, winning several medals, and had his first work accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1866, aged just 20. According to his biographer Harry Furniss, Barber 'loved to paint the stag', but his work was rather eclipsed by Landseer's own highland scenes; as a result, 'Barber came down from the solitude of the northern fastness and took to painting dogs and cats in the studio', much to the delight of Barber's dealers, who 'discovered the fact that the public bought pictures of children and dogs'.

    While he may have felt pigeon-holed in his choice of subject and driven by his financial responsibilities as a family man - he noted to his brother that 'manufacturing pictures for the market is just the devil' - nonetheless Barber produced an impressive body of work during his short career, conscientious and meticulous in his attention to detail: 'Everything required for the picture was bought or made... days and weeks were spent' to finalise the composition and render every object in the finest detail.

    Only a Shower is a prime example of Barber's craft; brilliantly rendered, down to the fine details on the objects that adorn the table, the subject is tender while avoiding being over-sentimental. Barber's proficiency at painting animals is self-evident; they are painted with great skill and anatomical accuracy, lending a sense of realism to the scene. As Furniss observes 'Burton Barber was never guilty of humanising his animal.... How perfectly the painter adapts the animal to the part, and yet it remains an animal! Not a muscle... is contorted for effect'.1

    As well as his regular showings at the Royal Academy, Barber was a frequent exhibitor at the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours (being elected a member in 1883), Walker Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery and the Fine Art Society. Examples of Barber's work in public collections include A special pleader (1893, Touchstones, Rochdale) and In Disgrace (1886, Flyde Borough Council, St Annes, Lancashire).

    1 The Works of Charles Burton Barber, London, 1896, passim.
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