Monday, January 14, 2013

AN ARTIST NAMED CHARLES BURTON BARBER

A long time ago, back in June, when Aunt Cheryl was visiting us, Mom bought a framed print at a thrift store for $15.  This print is one of those kind of sentimental Victorian ones with a girl and a dog.  And the girl is trying to get the dog to read a book.  At the bottom of the print, it says Pears, so we knew it had been used to advertise Pears Soap, which has been around at least since the Victorian Age.


Compulsory Education

So what I actually planned to write about was Pears Soap and all their ads with dogs in them.  But then last week, Mom took our print to get a new frame and a mat for it, and when it got taken out of the old frame, she could see that the picture was called Compulsory Education, and it was painted by Charles Burton Barber.  When I looked up Mr. Barber, I found out that he painted a whole bunch of pictures of children and dogs and cats and sometimes ponies.  So I decided to write about him instead.


Charles Burton Barber

First of all, I learned that Mr. Barber was born in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk in 1845.  At the age of 18, he began studying at the Royal Academy in London.  A year later, he got a silver medal for drawing, and he exhibited for the first time at the Academy in 1866.


Off to School, 1883

Before long, Charles Burton Barber became quite popular in England as a painter of animals.  Queen Victoria asked him to do paintings of her favorite dogs.  The Prince of Wales, who was later King Edward VII, also commissioned Mr. Barber to paint his pets.  Several of these paintings are now in the Royal Collection.  Mr. Barber was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1883, which was the same year he painted Off to School, which was one of his most famous works.


A Scratch Pack

Many of Mr. Barber's paintings were engraved and made into prints.  The originals often appeared in exhibits at The Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Walker Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, and The Fine Art Society.  Some of Mr. Barber's work is quite realistic, and other pieces are just quick sketches.  There are people who think the work is too sentimental, but it is still pretty popular nowadays, mainly because the paintings are very well done.


Suspense, 1894

Time to Wake Up

The last painting made by Charles Burton Barber was of Queen Victoria in her pony carriage with all her grandchildren around her.  This was in 1894.  A little later that same year, Mr. Barber died at the age of 49.

Sadly, it turned out that Mr. Barber didn't really like painting pictures of children and pets.  After he died, his brother said this about him:

The fact is, his heart was literally in the Highlands, for his love of the red deer and the attraction which mountain solitudes and scenes of storm and mist possessed for him was quite phenomenal, and whenever the picture dealers would give him a holiday he sketched these subjects with an absorbing interest and delight, which was, under all the circumstances of the case, quite pathetic.


A Special Pleader, 1893

And here is a quote from Harry Furniss, who was a friend and biographer of Charles Burton Barber:

It cannot be truly said that he enjoyed his work.  He disliked thinking his subject out, and was quite miserable during its inception.  The sight of a new canvas made him ill, and the spectacle of a new frame, which generally means the completion of the picture for which it is made, invariably upset him.  He was not imaginative, he was not prolific, and he was not a "potboiler."


Girl With Dogs

I am sorry to have to report these things about a man who did such nice paintings of dogs and little girls.  I hope he at least had some dogs of his own and maybe some children, too.  He had to get his models someplace.  I especially like those fox terriers who are in several paintings, because they look like they would be fun to play with!



24 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this story. I instantly recognise the bloodhound in compulsory education, and it's so interesting to know that it was part of a series. It's strange that the artist didn't enjoy making these stunning illustrations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you Google "Pears Soap ads" you will see lots of pictures of children and dogs getting baths. I think there were lots of artists that made paintings for Pears Soap besides Charles Burton Barber, but they all have that same sentimental Victorian look to them.

      Delete
  2. I came across your blog while researching Charles Burton Barber, and I really enjoyed reading your post about the artist. My family has one of his early chromolithographs called "Companions" depicting a little girl sleeping against her Newfoundland (or maybe it's a Saint Bernard). I wanted to learn more about the painting and artist, which led me here. Thanks so much for the information about this artist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear bloggergal,
      I'm glad you were able to find some helpful information about Charles Burton Barber on my blog. I think that any artist who paints pictures of dogs is a good artist. Well, I mean "good-hearted," at least!
      Sincerely, Piper

      Delete
  3. I too am researching CBB for an article and I enjoyed your account of his life. I have yet to discover any details about his family - wife, children - there is no mention of mourners at his funeral, although Queen Victoria did send a wreath inscribed "A mark of admiration and regard, Victoria RI."
    Jan Toms.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am happy to say that I have now located a record of his marriage, plus the birth of two daughters. You might like to look at my article on www.suite101.com;/jantoms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Jan Toms,
      Thank you for writing to tell me about your interest in Charles Burton Barber. I'm glad you were able to find more information about his family. Everybody should have a family, in my opinion, and dogs especially should have families! Mom and I will look at your article as soon as we get a chance. Thanks for the link.
      Sincerely, Piper

      Delete
  5. i have this painting named the special pleader does anybody know the retail value of this painting if i was to sell it?.many thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have had a print of "Compulsory Education for many years and have always loved it. This week a friend posted a print of a girl with "ghost" dog at her side and I instantly recognized the girl as the same one in "Compulsory Education". So, I have been searching for info and have found your blog. I do not see the "ghost" dog print here. have you ever come across this picture? I'm sure it is the same artist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I know which painting you are talking about. The girl is sitting on the steps, and a white dog is leaning on her shoulder. Here is a site where I found the dog not looking ghostly (the site is in Russian): http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/2983133/post276402902 If you Google "girl with ghost dog" you will see the same painting with the dog faded out to look like a ghost.

      Delete
  7. Thanks for the info but I do want to ask you something since you know more than I do about him...The First Painting that you said is called "Compulsory Education" do you know if that is the real name of it? Cause I have that painting in my hands and I was trying to look up anything about it and got your site. So I don't know if you have the same one but on the back of the picture there's 2 little Notes, The first lines starts with "The Reading Lesson" so that's why I'm asking if you know if the painting is really called Compulsory Education. I don't know if mine means that's what's it's called, but if your interested I can read you what it all says. Thanks for the info and thanks for teaching me something about this wonderful painter. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm. Well, when I was first looking for the painting online, I found it called "Compulsory Education." But now that I did another search on images for Barber, I found the print sometimes listed with that name and sometimes with "The Reading Lesson" and even on eBay with "Naughty Boy." I can't really explain this except to say that since it was a Pears Soap advertisement, maybe it didn't have an official name in the beginning, and people have given it different names over time.

      Delete
    2. My grandparents had a large framed picture on the wall facing the stairs .I always loved that picture but it seems to have disappeared.It was of a blond haired little girl sleeping against a Newbie dog.The little girls mother was peering out at the girl and dog from behind a velvet curtain.I have seen many cards and pictures of the same scene but the mother has been eliminated. I have been searching for the same print or picture for years. Many antique or collectible places are not familiar with the original picture.I love these old Victorian prints but especially the one that I saw in my grandparents prairie home in Saskatchewan !

      Delete
    3. Oops - I meant Newfie dog and not a Newbie !!

      Delete
  8. I have a few copies of Mr. Burton in my home. I don't know the value of these prints. I would like to know more about the piece. Are these items collectiables. email as follows. vondale.ward@yahoo.com Thank You.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was researching a picture of a little girl praying in bed with a cat an a dog, and I came across your blog. The info I found was exactly what I was looking for and it was very helpful. Love your work, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you were able to find the kind of info you needed on my blog. Thanks for reading it and for writing a comment!

      Delete
  10. FOUND A PRINT OF The READING lesson at Goowill...looks vey old and dusty..is it valuable

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, it's probably not too valuable, but if clean it up and get it framed (if necessary) you can enjoy looking at it!

      Delete
  11. The picture Compulsory Education(Naughty Boy) was actually painted by Briton Reiviere in 1887 as a tribute to Charles Barber(it was not painted by barber), and used by Pears as an advertisement.
    Www.artnet.com has categorised all paintings(works) by both artists.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The picture Compulsory Education(Naughty Boy) was actually painted by Briton Reiviere in 1887 as a tribute to Charles Barber(it was not painted by barber), and used by Pears as an advertisement.
    Www.artnet.com has categorised all paintings(works) by both artists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for this correction. There must be a lot of confusion regarding the painting because my print and another one that I currently have listed for sale on eBay are labelled with Barber as the artist. I will correct my eBay listing but probably will not rewrite this blog entry. Anyway, thanks again!

      Delete
  13. Hello
    I don't know if there is any interest in the background to A Special Pleader and other Burton-Barber paintings. The little girl in the painting A Special Pleader was my great grandmother. Her name was Alice Susie Barber. Her father Frank and Charles Burton Barber were cousins and my gran told me that Alice was staying with Charles while her mother was giving birth to her sister Mary (known as Lindre) Barber and while she was there he painted her. Mary (Lindre) Barber was born on 24th May 1894 so the painting would have done around that time. I guess little Alice looks sad because she wanted to go home. Alice went on to become the Pears Soap girl. She married Charles Panter De-Bure and had 3 children - my gran Susan, Frank and Charles. She died in September 1982. So there's a bit of background to A Special Pleader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing this fascinating information. How wonderful that you have such a special connection to this painting. I have a small framed print of it on my wall and enjoy looking at it.

      Delete