George Barret, Sr.

George Barret, Sr. (1730 – May 29, 1784) was an Irish landscape artist best known for his portraits of the British countryside during the mid to late 18th century. He was a founding member of the London Royal Academy.

George Barret Sr. RA (c. 1730 – 29 May 1784) was an Irish landscape artist who is best known for his Oil paintings, but also sometimes produced watercolours. He left Ireland in 1762 to establish himself as an artist in London and rapidly gained recognition as a leading artist of the period. He exhibited at the Society of Artists of Great Britain and was able to gain patronage from many leading art collectors. Barrett with other leading members left the Society in 1768 to found the Royal Academy, where he continued to exhibit until 1782. Barrett appears to have travelled extensively in England including the Lake District and the Isle of Wight, Wales, and Scotland to undertake commissions for his patrons, but he does not appear to have travelled abroad. Oil paintings of Tivoli in Italy have been attributed to him, but it is much more likely that they are the work of his son George Barret Jr.George Barrett junior. Barret suffered from asthma and this caused him to move in 1772 to Westbourne Green, at the time a country village to the west of Paddington. While he earned considerable quantities of money from his paintings, he has been described as being ‘‘feckless’’ with money. He was helped in 1782 by Edmund Burke, with whom he had become friends when Burke attended Trinity College, Dublin. On Burke’s recommendation he obtained the appointment of master painter of Chelsea Hospital, a post he held until his death in 1784. At the time of his death his widow and children we left destitute, but the Royal Academy granted her a pension of thirty pounds a year.

Born in Dublin, the son of a cloth merchant, some time between 1728 and 1732, Barret began his career apprenticed to a staymaker. He taught drawing after completing his studies at the Royal Dublin Society. Later moving to England, he became a successful painter, particularly of wild and mountainous natural landscapes; of the 31 paintings he showed at the Royal Academy in 1769–1782, more than a third depicted such scenery.

He married Frances Percy in 1757; four of their children (George, James, Joseph and Mary) also became painters. Only George (1767–1842) achieved particular notability, as an early member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, where he exhibited prolifically. George Barrett Senior died in Paddington in west London.