The Serenity of the Night
Oil on canvas
74.5 x 87.5 inches
Paisley Lloyd Vaughan of Golden Grove House, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary
Local auction c. 1930, bt by Adam and Mabel Hodgins, of Riverston, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and thence by descent
Royal Academy, 1917, no 443
K. Campbell, Moon Behind Clouds: An Introduction to the life and work of Sir Claude Francis Barry, Jersey, 1999,
Barry, who was well travelled and came from a wealthy background, had no need to sell his pictures. After only two years at Harrow, which did not suit him, he enrolled at the Bornemouth School of Art and then took lessons in painting from Sir Alfred East, and in printmaking from Frank Brangwyn. He lived amongst the community of modern artists at Newlyn in Cornwall from 1905 and when the Great War began, Barry (a pacifist) joined other progressive painters in St Ives where he painted this picture. It is the earliest exhibited example of his ‘Divisionist’ technique, which he had learned from Seurat and Signac, separating pure colours in patches so that they mixed vibrantly in the eye instead of muddily in the palette. This scene was a favourite place of his: the grounds of the Chateau Gaillard overlooking the Seine in Upper Normandy, which he had first painted in 1911 and returned to throughout his life. Its peaceful mood must have seemed pure escapism to visitors to the Royal Academy in wartime London, where the painting was shown.
Barry wrote an unpublished treatise on art, Painting, in which he described his working method: ‘First he would sketch out the design with charcoal directly onto the canvas; then he would cover the surface with a thin layer of neutral paint; only then would he begin to apply colour. Colour was the guiding force in Barry’s work: “Colour is the heart and soul, the joy and the glory of painting; without fine colour no picture can be truly great, but with fine colour a multitude of other sins can be forgiven”’ (quoted in Barry’s biography, Moon Behind Clouds by Katie Campbell, 1999).