Research by Sylvia Davis
Charles Burton Barber was primarily known for his charming paintings of children with animals although his greatest love was painting the natural world, deer in particular. He was born in 1845 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, as were his parents, Charles and Elizabeth and his two younger brothers, Frank and Arthur. In the 1851 census his father's occupation was listed as printer, bookseller and stationer in Great Yarmouth, employing one man, but ten years later, by which time the family had moved to Reading St Giles, Berkshire, it was recorded as upholsterer. (1)
In 1863, when he was 18, Barber entered the Royal Academy and the following year won a silver medal for drawing. In 1866 Barber exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first of what became many occasions. (2)
On 8 April 1875 Barber married Miss May Margaret Williams in the parish of St Marylebone, Westminster. She was the daughter of the late Herbert Williams, an architect, of 52 Old Broad Street, London. (1)
By 1871 Charles lived in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and the census states that he was a visitor in the residence of Mr and Mrs Morley. (4) In 1881 Barber and his wife, May, were in residence at 1 Titchfield Villas, Marylebone with their two daughters, Winifred M, aged 4 years, and Audrey, aged 1. There was also a nurse and a domestic servant living with them. (1)
During the 1870s Queen Victoria commissioned Barber to paint a series of portraits of the royal family pets (including her own dogs, Marco and Noble), one of which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1873. Other dog portraits included Watts, Spot and Oswald for Princess Beatrice, and Beattie and Fozzy for the Prince, who would later become King Edward VII. One of the more famous pieces is of the Queen, Beatrice, three collies and a dachshund at Windsor. He also painted Queen Victoria on her horse with John Brown in attendance. (2) Barber’s ability to capture the sympathy between animals and their owners accounts for the continuing appeal of his paintings despite their commercialisation. (3)
After his first royal commission Barber continued to paint portraits for the Queen, as her official court painter, to the end of his life. His final one, circa 1893, shows the Queen seated in her pony carriage with several of her grandchildren, along with, as always, her many dogs. At least five of these portraits are still held in trust in the Royal Collection. (2)
In the archive of the Royal Academy there is a letter dated 20 March 1893 from Sir Henry Frederick Ponsonby, Buckingham Palace, written on behalf of Queen Victoria. The letter contains a request that a painting entitled Maneo by C Burton Barber be exhibited in the summer exhibition. The letter is written on the reverse of an original letter from Barber, written from 1 Titchfield Road, Regent’s Park and dated 18 March 1893.
Charles Burton Barber died in 1894, aged 49 years, in Marylebone, London.
Barber's paintings often depict children from wealthy homes and their loyal pets. In this Victorian-era painting we have a young girl sitting on a tall chair in a corner, obviously as a punishment for breaking a vase and scattering the flowers. Her small pet dog, possibly a Jack Russell, is tucked under her skirts appearing to sympathise and share in her misfortune. There are several versions of In Disgrace. Probably the most famous depicts a young girl, now with blonde hair but wearing the identical dress, standing to face the corner. Another painting, A Special Pleader, has the naughty girl, again blonde and in the same dress, standing in the corner being defended, this time by a border collie. Whilst this painting does share a number of elements with In Disgrace, it interestingly, shows more of the interior of the house. One version of In Disgrace was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1886. (3)(4) In 2007 Christies sold a version of In Disgrace for £322,400.
(1) Ancestry transcripts of Census, Free BMD, National Probate Registers
(2) Find My Past
(3) Collection Archives
The donor of the painting, Miss Dorothy Ward Mosedale, died in 1970 and had generously donated several ivories and a mahogany cabinet along with four pictures, including this one, in memory of her father and mother and an Elizabeth Ward.
Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873), who was once taught by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), was a big influence on Barber. Like Landseer he began painting outdoors in nature, especially landscapes with deer. He loved painting animals and although his heart was still in the Highlands he found that his homely portraits of wealthy children and their animals were far more commercially attractive. He was able to portray the bond that existed between children and their pets, especially in the expressions on the animals’ faces. His paintings, such as Suspense that was owned by A & F Pears, the soap manufacturers, were often used to advertise products. In this a blonde child watches her dog, who looks ready to devour her breakfast whilst she is saying grace, with her kitten on the other side looking set to do the same. (1)
In 1896 a book entitled ‘The Works of Charles Burton-Barber’ was published by Cassell and Company. It had an introduction by Harry Furniss and was illustrated with 41 plates, including Barber’s portrait. (2) This book showed Barber’s popular sentimental works, mostly of children and dogs, sometimes cats, but often with a degree of humour and sympathy that must have appealed to every family with domestic pets. However, Barber often longed to free himself from these commercial pictures and paint for his own pleasure and this threw an element, not of bitterness, but of melancholy into his life. Furniss describes Barber as 'the sweetest-natured man that ever held a brush'. (3)
(1) The Famous Artists (2010-15), <http://www.thefamousartists.com/charles-burton-barber>
(2) Harry, H, (1893), London Letter
(a publication), 8 April 1893
(3) TLM, (1896), The Leeds Mercury,
2 December 1896