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Time Flies
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Time Flies
Irish School
oil on canvas
86.5 x 120cm


Time Flies is one of the best loved paintings in the Crawford Art Gallery's collection. Barry charmingly represents a peasant woman and three children in a sunlit glade. Such a scene could almost evoke a memory of the artist's childhood, in the woods and by the estuary at the Fota estate, county Cork, but the church architecture would seem to locate the picture to northern France. The title of the picture poignantly suggests the passing of life, as the elderly woman watches over the carefree children. The surface of the river gleams in the background. Even the shadows in the foreground seem to mark the passing of the day before our very eyes.

In another picture (private collection), Barry shows an old woman and a couple of children, in grey smocks, sitting before a fire in a dimly lit cottage interior. Such studies of youth and age show the Cork artist's embracing of French Peasant Realism, and fit the pictures firmly in their period. Barry had a canvas, Retour de la peche aux crevettes, accepted at the Paris Salon in 1886, and Time Flies was exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1888. He seems to have been poised upon the threshold of a successful career in Europe before he emigrated to America and an uncertain future.


Lit. - Campbell, 1984 / Campbell, 1989 / Murray, 1992 / Campbell, 199

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William Gerard Barry
Irish School

The mysterious William Gerard Barry, painter of the much-loved Time Flies led a strange and colourful life. He was born in Ballyadam, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork, the second son of Patrick Barry J.P., a local magistrate and one of seven children. He attended the Cork School of Art, studying under H. Jones Thaddeus, who encouraged him to continue his studies in Paris. He went to London and Paris c.1886, and worked at portraits and landscapes. According to his niece Edie Bourke:-

"He often spoke of his days in Montmartre, of his many spirited
adventures there; on one occasion...he spent a few nights in gaol for removing..."the overhead trolley of a tram. On another occasion:- "In 1886 he jumped into the Seine and rescued a man and a boy
from drowning, for which he received the French 'Humanite' medal."

In 1887 he was at Etaples, Pas de Calais, where there was a small artists' colony. (Frank O'Meara was there the same year, and perhaps Co. Cork artist Egerton Coghill). From Etretat, Barry sent a painting to the Royal Dublin Society, and was awarded the £30 Taylor Prize. Perhaps this was Time Flies, which is signed and dated 1887; it was exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year.

Barry returned home to Ireland in c.1888, but then fell out with his father. With little means, he set sail from Cobh, working as a deck-hand to pay his passage. Upon arrival in Canada, he worked as a ranch-hand, saving enough money until he could afford to paint again. He worked his way, painting the name signs for ranches. He visited Montreal, and spent some time in the United States, where he received commissions including, it is said, one to paint a portrait of President Wilson, which was hung in the White House. Barry's travels continued to many countries and to the South Seas. His personal wants were few, and he gained commissions as he went. He remained unmarried and settled in France, renting a small studio on the French Riviera. He painted less, but increasingly did portraits in charcoal. He retired to St. Jean de Luz near the Pyrenees. He is said to have shared a studio with Augustus John there. He remained there at the outset of War, and the German Occupation. He is said to have met with an accident; a bookcase fell on him (as upon in 'Howard's End' by E.M. Foster), and he died on the 19th March, 1940.

This charming French scene Time Flies is a characteristic 'plein-air' 'Peasant painting' of the 1880's comparable to canvases by O'Meara, Osborne and others, but with a more sunny 'impressionistic' influence. Regretfully, very few other pictures by Barry are known.


Ref: The Irish Impressionists National Gallery of Ireland, 1984.
Catalogue by Julian Campbell
Recollections of Edie Bourke (niece of W.G. Barry) of French's Walk, Cobh (Crawford Art Gallery Archives)