Vibrantly hued and distinctly modern, this extraordinary oil on panel by British artist Sir Claude Francis Barry offers a bold interpretation of the historic French manor, Château de Gien. Like many of Barry’s subjects, the Loire Valley château and its surrounding town of Gien were greatly affected by the ravages of war, having been devastated by aerial attacks during World War II. In the present work, Barry beautifully captures an intimate portrait of the château following its careful and painstaking restoration. Strikingly bold in the simplicity of his forms and the energetic composition, it stands as an ode to the resilience of man in the face of adversity.
Though a pacifist, much of Barry’s oeuvre is dedicated to the subject of war and its effects, and his images of the World Wars remain among his most poignant. He experimented with a number of different artistic styles, from realism to pointillism to futurism, choosing the best to suit the mood of his subjects and canvases. Though his style was ever-evolving, his works always remained imbued with his highly personal, poetic vision.
Born into a wealthy, aristocratic family, Barry was a reclusive figure whose independent wealth ensured his complete artistic freedom. He sold very few of his works during his lifetime, not because they were unmarketable, but rather because he did not need the income, and was often times unwilling to part with them. Though he exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Society of Scottish Artists and the Salon in Paris, little else is known of the unsociable artist. Upon his death in 1970, he bequeathed his entire estate - including a remarkable collection of works - to his sole pupil, Tom Skinner. Only since his death has the genius of this modern British master been fully revealed, and a recent retrospective at the Royal Cornwall Museum in 2011 reveals the growing interest in Barry. This interest is also noted in his rising popularity at auction; in 2015, a work at Christie’s London brought a record $361,424.
This important work is illustrated on page 111 of Moon Behind Clouds: An Introduction to the life and work of Sir Claude Francis Barry, Jersey, 1999, by K. Campbell, no. 678.
Canvas: 37 7/8" high x 23 5/8" wide
Frame: 42" high x 27 7/8" wide
Signature: Signed “.F Barry.” (lower right) Signed, inscribed and dated 'Chateau/Gien/Barry F/65' (en verso)
The artist, 1965
Tom Skinner, the artist's executor, 1970
Private collection, United Kingdom
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans