English Artist: James Barry
Young, Georgian Era Lady (Likely a Bride),
Depicted with a Sky Background and
White Dress and Lace Veil
by James Barry (also known as John Barry; fl. 1784-1827)
2 5/16 x 2 15/16 inches (sight)
watercolor on ivory; housed in a gilt metal pendant frame
About the Artist: For decades, collectors and historians have tried to piece together facts about the life of miniature painter John Barry. Turns out we have all been searching in the wrong places. Nicholas Stogdon, former head of Christie's print department and now a private dealer in old master prints, deserves credit for having cracked the case. In 2018, he revealed research that proves that John Barry wasn't a "John" after all. Rather, his name was James Barry.
It was Stogdon who found an advertisement by Barry in the March 27, 1806 edition of London's "The Morning Post" that read as follows: "MR. BARRY, (Miniature Painter), perceiving that the death of the late JAMES BARRY, Esq. formerly Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy, has occasioned repeated mistakes among his friends, in consequence of his having the same Christian and Surname with the deceased, finds it necessary to inform the public that he still resides at No. 57, New Bond-street."
Indeed, miniaturist James Barry did live at 57 New Bond Street from 1803 through 1808; and in searching for James, rather than John Barry, one can flesh out a long history of the artist's other London residences dating from 1783 to 1827.
The long-lasting confusion as to the artist's name seems to stem from the fact that, in his various advertisements, he typically only referred to himself as "Mr. Barry, Miniature Painter"; and when exhibiting works, his name was only ever listed in exhibition catalogs as "J. Barry". (Barry regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy over 43 years, from 1784 through 1827.) At some point, a historian or cataloger assumed that Barry's name must have been John and, ever since, he has been erroneously listed in published indices and research volumes as such.
As any collector of his miniatures knows, James Barry was a very talented artist of the Georgian and Regency eras. Historian Daphne Foskett opined, however, that his work "has not always had the attention which it deserves."(*) One cannot help but think this might have something to do with the confusion about his identity.
It is not known what happened to Barry after participating in his last exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1827. He is known to have suffered from poor health over a period of several years, however, and to have regularly traveled to Lisbon, Portugal in search of the therapeutic benefits of warmer weather. Perhaps future research in Lisbon will someday reveal clues as to Barry's last days.
Barry is known to have works in collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery (Nottingham, England), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City). He is listed by Benezit, Blättel (pages 124, 125), Foskett (page 486), and Schidlof (page 64).
(*) Foskett, Daphne (1987). "Miniatures Dictionary and Guide", Antique Collectors' Club, London, page 486.