Thomas Barker | The Victoria Art Gallery

Thomas Barker

Thomas Barker, Landscape with Figures

1767-1847. A one-time child prodigy, Thomas Barker was ‘discovered’ by a wealthy Bath coach builder and property developer, Charles Spackman. Spackman organised Barker’s artistic training, making him copy Old Master paintings. It was usual for budding artists to learn from copying, but Spackman seems to have been unusually severe with the young man. It is said that Barker was made to copy one painting over 130 times.

Barker became very skilled at imitating other artists' styles. On one occasion he was at the house of a Lady Jervis and spotted one of his own paintings. Lady Jervis had believed it to be by Rembrandt. Although his early portraits are striking, his later work showed less originality and more sentimentality. However, when he painted his friends, the confidence and verve of his early works came through again.

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