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George Barret the Elder



George Barret the Elder was an Irish landscape painter best known for his role as a founding member of the British Royal Academy. He was born around 1728 in Dublin, Ireland, where he grew up and trained as an artist. He moved to London in 1762, gaining a reputation and earning the patronage of noble families throughout England. As an early and leading member of the Romantic movement, Barret’s landscapes put the grandeur of nature on full display. He exhibited pieces at the Society of Artists of Great Britain, where he was a member. In 1768, he left the Society with a group of others and founded the Royal Academy. Because of his asthma, he moved from the crowded city of London to the fresh air of the country village of Westbourne Green, where he lived for the remainder of his life. In 1782, Edmund Burke, a longtime patron and friend of George Barret, got him a job as the master painter of Chelsea Hospital, a retirement home for members of the British military. Barret worked there until his death two years later, on May 29, 1784. George Barret the Elder worked primarily with oils but occasionally worked in watercolors. One of his most famous pieces is a panorama of the Lake District done in the dining room of Norbury Park, Surrey, the home of William Lock, and completed in collaboration with Giovanni Battista Cipriani and Benedetto Pastorini. Barret had a distasteful personality, and while his commissions earned a considerable profit, his mismanagement of wealth left his family destitute. The Royal Academy supported them financially with a pension of 30 pounds per year, and all four of his children became artists themselves. His three sons became painters, and his daughter became a miniaturist. Most of his paintings remain in private collections across England.

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