Art Wednesday: George Barret – Irish Painter

Landscape with a Watermill - Oil on canvas, 50 x 59 cm Private collection The painting shows a finely delineated watermill, with figures to one side and cattle to the other outside a barn; overhead the sky is overcast and brooding. The influence of Jacob van Ruisdael cam be noted, and it can be assumed that Barret had seen some of Ruisdael's watermill landscapes which served as the inspiration for this particular work.

Landscape with a Watermill

Oil on canvas, 50 x 59 cm
Private collection
The painting shows a finely delineated watermill, with figures to one side and cattle to the other outside a barn; overhead the sky is overcast and brooding. The influence of Jacob van Ruisdael cam be noted, and it can be assumed that Barret had seen some of Ruisdael’s watermill landscapes which served as the inspiration for this particular work.

The son of a tailor, George Barret first trained as a staymaker but then found work colouring prints for Silcock, a publisher in Dublin. In 1747 he was awarded first prize at the Dublin Society’s School, where he studied under Robert West.

Among Barret’s earliest works is a group of landscapes (National Gallery, Dublin) painted for Joseph Leeson, later 1st Earl of Miltown, in the 1740s and 1750s as architectural decorations for Russborough House, Co. Wicklow, built in 1742-55 by Richard Castle. They are rather stiff Italianate views, with somewhat contrived compositions. In the 1750s, perhaps through the influence of Edmund Burke, Barret embarked on a series of topographical paintings of the Dargle Valley, Powerscourt, Castletown and other locations around Dublin. These works established his reputation, and he moved to London in 1763.

Landscape with an Approaching Shower - Oil on canvas, 58 x 63 cm Private collection The painting depicts two figures by a stream in a landscape with an approaching shower.

Landscape with an Approaching Shower

Oil on canvas, 58 x 63 cm
Private collection
The painting depicts two figures by a stream in a landscape with an approaching shower.

The following year he won a 50-guinea premium for a painting exhibited at the Free Society of Artists, and he was soon taken up by English patrons. In 1765-67 he made ten views of the park and house at Welbeck Abbey, Notts, for William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland. After becoming a founder-member of the Royal Academy in 1768 he carried out a similar commission for Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, recording the mountainous scenery of Dalkeith Park, Lothian, in such pictures as A Rocky River Scene (private collection), which were shown at the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1771.

Despite his success, it seems he was incompetent in managing his money. By the end of the 1770s, he was close to bankruptcy but was supported in these straits by William Locke who paid his debts and commissioned a decorative scheme for Norbury Park to be executed in collaboration with Sawrey Gilpin, Cipriani and Benedetto Pastorini. Burke also came to the rescue using his position as Paymaster General to appoint him official painter to the Chelsea Hospital.

Barret died in 1784 and is buried in Paddington Green Church.

On the Web:

George Barret, Sr. – Wikipedia

George Barret, Landscape Painter – Library Ireland

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Friday Reader: Destinations That Are Off-Limits in the World

Off limits

From clubs exclusive to rich tycoons and the social elite to islands off-limits from tourists to prevent contamination, it’s all the cool places you & I might really like to visit, but have almost no chance to do so…

1

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

  • This one was built out of fear that all those sci-fi scenarios about the end of the world might actually come true.
  • This vault, build on a secluded island in the North Sea, is home to over 250 million crop seeds shipped from gene banks worldwide with an estimated cost exceeding $9 million dollars.
  • You can’t enter the vault – nobody can, but researchers, plant breeders and other groups can request seeds from the depositing genebanks.
  • If you WERE to enter it, you’d see the biggest hope for agriculture in the event of a polar ice cap melt or similar Earthly disaster.

2

Mezhgorye

  • A closed military town at the foot of Mount Yamantau in Russia’s Ural Mountain, believed by the United States to be a large secret nuclear facility owned by the Russians.
  • When questioned, the Russians give inconsistent answers like, it’s a mining site, no, it’s a treasury, no, a food storage area – and then finally they said, yep, nuclear bunker in the event of apocalyptic war.
  • It’s believed to house nuclear weapons, and as much as we want to visit it to inspect, we aren’t allowed – Russian newspapers claim it to be part of the Dead Hand initiative – to automatically launch nukes if a bunch are about to strike THEM.

3

Woomera Prohibited Area

  • An Australian military testing range covering nearly 124,000 square kilometres – and although that area is restricted, the nearby town of Woomera is open to the public.
  • You’ll want to go there for one reason, but also want to stay away for another – it’s highly prospective, significant quantities of minable gold, iron ore, opals and uranium that the general populace can’t reach.
  • Due to the amount of unlaunched war material lying around though, it’s basically a minefield, so even if you could get around the military presence to mine, chances are you’ll get your face blown off – not a great way to spend your weekend.

4

Jiangsu National Security Education Museum

  • This is basically the real-life James Bond exhibit – top secret documents and gadgets from the history of Chinese espionage.
  • It includes things like, guns disguised as lipstick, hollowed-out coins to conceal documents and maps hidden in a deck of cards.
  • The only people allowed to enter this museum are Chinese nationals, entirely because they don’t trust foreigners with their sensitive spy information – which is fair enough.

5

Club 33

  • A private club located in Disneyland that costs 40 thousand dollars for membership and $10,000 in yearly costs.
  • The reason it costs so much? It’s like a secret backdoor disneyland but with a liquor license and 14-year waiting list, props from disney films everywhere, animatronics and complimentary valet parking.
  • You enter the club by buzzing an intercom concealed in a hidden panel in the doorway, then you take the antique-style glass lift to any of two giant dining rooms.
  • This is a great place if you’re an ultra-rich tycoon.

6

Aldwych Tube Station

  • Originally opened in November 1907, the subway station was active during World War II and used as an air raid shelter and hiding place for National Gallery artworks.
  • In 1994 the trains stopped running and now the entire station is unused, a monument to early 1900s society with vintage tracks, an old lobby and ancient elevators.
  • On occasion it’s open for tours, but for 99% of the time people just break in to take photos.
  • The station was featured in the James Bond movie Die Another Day.

7

Fort Knox

  • The location of a fortified vault building, the United States Bullion Depository located in Kentucky, used to store large portions of gold and precious items
  • While conspiracy theorists maintain that all the gold is gone and the facility now houses everything from RFID chips (to be later embedded into American citizens) to secret Illuminati plans, the US Government alleges that it holds 4,500 metric tons of pure gold.
  • The facility’s vault, where some of value lays hidden, is built inside granite walls, protected by a blast-proof door, weighing 22 tons and 21-inches tick, 30,000 soldiers patrolling with tanks, personal carriers, attack helicopters and artillery.
  • In order to enter you need a 10 part secret code held by 10 different people all in different locations – there’s a reason we have the saying “as impenetrable as Fort Knox.”

8

White’s Gentleman’s Club

  • Established in 1693, this is a club exclusive for British men with notable members Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and the British Prime Minister.
  • For hundreds of years, a famous betting book has seen notable figures gambling on not just sport, but political developments even during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
  • Women who approach the club are always denied membership, including the model for the central character in the BBC television series and one of the best chefs during the early 1900s: Rosa Lewis.

9

Queen Elizabeth’s Bedroom

  • You’ll find this in Buckingham Palace, the British Queen’s official London residence first established in 1705.
  • Even though the place is heavily guarded, one man managed to break in and hide in the Queen’s bedroom in 1982.
  • To date, he’s one of the only men to see the interior without an official Royal Family invitation or building permit – and if you’re just some random Schmuck, then there’s little chance you’ll see it this lifetime.

10

Lascaux Caves

  • Located in France and discovered in 1940, it is singularly one of the most important archaeological finds – cave paintings and perfectly preserved footprints from human beings that lived tens of thousands of years ago – 17,000 year to be more precise.
  • Due to the fear of fungal infection from human presence, these caves have been closed to the public for some time and on rare occasions only a small group of people escorted over elevated ramps can visit for minutes at any given time
  • You can learn more about it in the documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” one of the few pieces of photography allowed in the cave network.

11

Surtsey

  • An Icelandic island that only came into existence about 50 years ago following volcanic eruptions in the area.
  • Despite its young age, the island already plays host to over 90 species of bird with new plant species evolving at a rate of 2-5 per year
  • Humans carefully monitor the islands progress from a small hut, ensuring no outside seeds or unwanted visitors turn up to hurt the naturally evolving ecosystem – they even had to dig up some potatoes a bunch of kids planted for a laugh.

12

Poveglia

  • A small island near Venice that many claim to have had such an intense, violent history that it’s now haunted.
  • It was once a dumping ground for the sick, dying and deceased, and when the Bubonic Plague arrived in 1348, it became a quarantine zone with Venice exiling many ill people there.
  • It was immolated when the Black Death swept through, a hospital for the mentally ill was established and shut down and currently it’s now closed to both locals and tourists.

….but get there if you can.

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