Organisation promoting event: CCASM Modern & Contemporary
Date: 1st to 22nd June 6pm
Until recently, Sir Claude Francis Barry was not a widely known name in British modernism. This is possibly because he came from a wealthy, aristocratic family and sold few of his works during his lifetime, leaving a prodigious body of work in his studio on Jersey when he died. Barry was educated at Harrow and, against the wishes of his family, followed his inclinations as a painter from the moment he left school. He studied in Newlyn – then a burgeoning centre of painting – and from the age of 23 exhibited at the Royal Academy and later at the Royal Society of British Artists and the Salon des Artists Français. Indeed, his style was in some ways more aligned to French than to English painting.
Barry was a pacifist; he had spent World War I as an agricultural labourer and at the outbreak of World War II he reluctantly returned from years of living and travelling in France, Italy and Germany to settle in St Ives. There he studied for a time with Stanhope Forbes, and he would have come into contact with other artists working there at the time – among whom Laura and Harold Knight, Augustus John and Alfred East. After the war, Barry moved to Jersey and lived here for over 20 years, regularly using the island as his subject.
Despite his being a pacifist, the subject of war clearly inspired some of his best known work. He experimented with different styles, most obviously the French Pointillist style of separating colours into spots and using them in conjunction with each other to deliver a more vibrant result. However, one also sees evidence of his having looked at the British Vorticists and some of his impressive, war-related canvases of the 1940s were painted in a combination of these styles. The fountains of coloured lights in these paintings dramatically intersected by angular searchlights, provide some of his most successful compositions and one such work is the centre piece of the exhibition. His work is now very much sought after at auction and in specialist dealerships, with early works fetching hundreds of thousands of pounds, whilst the later works from Jersey have barely been marketed since leaving the studio so are available at much more competitive prices. His most recent UK museum retrospective in 2011 was reviewed by the Financial Times under the headline, The Greatest Artist you’ve Never Heard Of, a situation that has finally begun to change since that show.
Ticket Price(s): Free
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Venue Sommerville House, Phillips Street, St. Helier, JE2 4WS