A Century of British Painters

By Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE FOUNDERS OF THE WATER-COLOUR
SOCIETY

THIS chapter we purpose to devote exclusively to the distinguished men who were the founders of the Water-Colour Society. They all began and ended their career as painters in water-colour, and whether as painters of landscape, landscape and figures, or as animal painters, each established a manner peculiarly original, and his own; each was as unlike the other, and as distinct in his treatment of nature, as in his modes of execution. We do not know how to assign a due precedence, and have therefore spoken of them in chronological order.

George Barret was the son of the landscape painter of the same name, who was distinguished in his day, and who was a foundation member of the Royal Academy. Notwithstanding the large income the father made by his art, on his death in 1784, he left a large family in great difficulties, and dependent upon the charitable funds of the Academy. The son was born in either 1767 or 1768, but he did not exhibit till 1795, eleven years after his father's death. His first pictures were a view of a gentleman's seat in Yorkshire, and a scene on Loch Lomond, followed next year ( 1796) by a view of Lord Grantley's seat, the horses by Sawrey Gilpin, and a scene in the Highlands, the portraits by R. R. Reinagle, the horses again by Gilpin.

The young painter evidently began life surrounded with troubles, but he continued to labour with patient exertion--and to exhibit one or two works yearly at the Royal Academy up to 1803; but in that and the two following years we miss his name in the catalogue. In 1805 he joined the Society of Painters in Water-Colours on its formation, and from that time his chief works appear on the walls of the society, though he occasionally sent a picture, sometimes a painting in oil, to the Royal Academy. He was of frugal and industrious habits, and though poor, he aimed more at excellence in his art than at gain. Though an unremitting exhibitor at the Water-Colour Society during thirty-eight years, his pictures did not average fifteen yearly. These were mostly effects of light, sunset, evening, the mists of sunrise, moonlight, and twilight; many of which subjects were sought on the Thames, and in the picturesque environs of the metropolis. He painted a few, but very few scenes in Wales, and on the Sussex coast; but

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