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Sir Claude Francis Barry (1883-1970)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FORMERLY IN THE ESTATE OF SIR CLAUDE FRANCIS BARRY‘Over seven decades of active work Barry’s art never became static or stale. His style evolved constantly, from the early narrative oils through the energetic Vorticist works, from the elegant etchings to the vibrant Pointillist canvases, from the chromatic landscapes to the elemental simplicity of his final works’ (K. Campbell, Moon Behind Clouds: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Sir Claude Francis Barry, Jersey, 1999, p. 32).Most famed for his wartime searchlight pictures, Barry created a remarkably varied body of work, which although differing in style and theme over the years, always remains imbued with an individual poetic vision. He was a gifted painter and a proficient etcher, having trained under Sir Frank Brangwyn, which encouraged a unique tonality and emphasis on composition and structure in his paintings. This can be seen to equal effect in the different media he used, such as in his painting Dolce Aqua Moonlight (see lot 154 in the Modern British & Irish Art Day Sale, Christie's, London, 24 November 2016) and his etching St Mark’s, Venice, which both depict scenes from Italy, where he travelled on numerous occasions. Indeed travel was of great importance to Barry, who toured Italy with his tutor after leaving Harrow school and later moved around Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, before returning to St Ives in 1939, later settling in Jersey. This European influence can be seen in Barry’s bold use of colour, inspired by Matisse, as well as his interest in, and proficiency with, European painting styles such as Fauvism, Vorticism and Pointillism, as displayed in paintings like Evening Light, San Gimignano and Notre Dame de Paris, Evening (see lots 153 and 155 in the Modern British & Irish Art Day Sale, Christie's, London, 24 November 2016).Barry is somewhat of an enigma and the facts of his life are tinged with uncertainty, much of what we do know has been pieced together from documents found in an old suitcase on his death. Born into a wealthy, industrial family Barry was a reclusive figure, who was known for being as equally quick-tempered as he was wickedly witty. Having lost his mother at a young age and ostracised by his new stepmother, his life was tinged with a sense of sadness. A feeling of loss and alienation is felt in some of Barry’s most poignant works, where vast nocturne skies, dwarf the unseen solitary figure watching them, as seen in his evocative Wartime paintings of searchlights across London. Defying his parents’ wishes to become a painter, Barry moved to Newlyn to be tutored by Alfred East, a fashionable landscape painter and an Associate of the Royal Academy. Here he joined the Newlyn School of Painting and worked alongside the Newlyn School greats, such as Henry Scott Tuke, Norman Garstin and Stanhorpe Forbes, combining the Impressionist interest in light with a Victorian interest in realism. Although shunned by his family, Barry was embraced by the artistic community and by the age of 23 was exhibiting at the Royal Academy, and later the Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Society of Scottish Artists and the Salon des Artistes in Paris. In 1908 Barry moved to St Ives with his new wife Doris Hume-Spry and joined artists Laura Knight, Augustus John and Alfred Munnings, who had all settled there. Here Barry became an active member of the St Ives Club, later becoming club treasurer, and learnt to paint with a looser, more individual style. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, much of the artistic community of St Ives was disbanded, with many of the artists being called away for military service. Barry was not amongst them and instead was drafted in to do agricultural labour to support the production of supplies for troops at the front. Some state that this was due to his pacifist standing, while others believe he may have received exemption, due to prior mental health issues. Whatever the case Barry was in the prime location to record the war at home, creating some of the most striking and moving documentations of the fears civilians faced on a daily basis. His most celebrated works are those he painted during the First and Second World Wars, with his depictions of the air strikes over London being some of his most powerful paintings. This is seen to remarkable effect in V.E. Day, London and Moscow Victorious, May 1945 and most particularly Houses of Parliament - a wartime Nocturne (see lots 33-35), where Barry captures the dramatic view of the searchlights over the river Thames, as they radiate out into the night-time sky. Viewed from across the water, Barry utilises the rays of the searchlights to create a beautifully scintillating and dramatic use of patterning, which describes the numerous crossing beams of light, transfiguring the danger of the nocturnal scene into a thing of beauty. Fearful of the security risks of painters depicting strategic sites, the government imposed a ban on outdoor painting, forcing artists back into the studio. This had a significant effect on Barry’s style, encouraging him to move away from the Newlyn’s emphasis on plein-air realism and instead look towards the French Pointillist painters, such as Seurat and Signac, the Fauve artists like Matisse and Derain, and the British Vorticists, who focused on the dynamism of colour and form. The pointillist technique Barry employed during this time and into the 1920s and 1930s is especially effective, as seen in stylised portraits of women and paintings like Houses of Parliament - a wartime Nocturne (lot 33), where he uses the small concentrated dots of colour to create an atmospheric haze of light, which falls poetically over the London skyline. A critic, who viewed his work in 1922, aptly responded, ‘You may like or dislike his work, but you cannot ignore it. It has a commanding strength of vision’. Philip Vann elaborates, ‘Here, Barry’s own fertile study of modern art movements has resulted in a highly original synthesis: the searchlights themselves uniting the severe mechanical angularities of Vorticist and Futurist art with delicate tonal modulations characteristic of Pointillism’ (P. Vann, Francis Barry, 2008, n.p.).
Sir Claude Francis Barry (1883-1970)

Houses of Parliament - a wartime Nocturne

Details
Sir Claude Francis Barry (1883-1970)
Houses of Parliament - a wartime Nocturne
signed 'F. Barry' (lower left) and signed again, inscribed and dated '"The Houses of Parliament - a wartime Nocturne" 1941 Barry. F.' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
29½ x 37¾ in. (75 x 96 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Billinghurst, 14 January 1992, lot 286, where purchased by the previous owner; from whom purchased by the present owner.
Exhibited
possibly London, Royal Society of British Artists, Winter Exhibition, 1942, no. 401.
Truro, Royal Cornwall Museum, Sir Claude Francis Barry, February - June 2011.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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