Robert Barr

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 478
Date: 1894/1895
Medium: etching
Size: 112 x 90 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 9
Catalogues: K.App.4;
Impressions taken from this plate  (9)


clothing, dress, fashion, hat, head, man, portrait.


It is known by only one title, as for example:

'Robert Barr' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 5
'Robert Barr' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 6

5: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. App. V).

6: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. App. IV).


The head and shoulders of a man facing right, in 3/4 view, wearing a hat with a slightly curved brim. He has a neat, drooping moustache and short, dark beard.


Robert Barr (1850-1912). Barr posed to Whistler for an oil painting, Portrait of Robert Barr [y428]. During Beatrice Whistler's fatal illness, in 1894, Barr 'saw the artist almost daily and ... sat as model as frequently as his own busy life would allow'; he was described as 'constantly sitting to be studied and sketched'. 7

7: Academy, 10 October 1903, p. 390.

Sickert described it as 'a characteristic sketch on copper ... an excellent likeness of a distinguished compatriot of Mr Whistler's, for whom Mr Whistler had a warm friendship and admiration.' 8

8: Sickert 1908 in Robins 2002, op. cit., , p. 177.


Despite Sickert's assertions, there is some question over the attribution of this etching to Whistler. One impression is inscribed 'To my friend Wm. Merchant / Probably by Pennel [sic] / W. S.' by Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942); but on the same sheet is also written 'Robert Barr etched by Whistler in 1894 at 13 Rob[ert?] Street Cumberland Market' (Graphic with a link to impression #KAp40106). Sickert was a little free with his attributions, and not entirely reliable; he could have wrongly attributed the plate, or he could have worked on it himself. It does not look like the work or a portrait of Joseph Pennell (1860-1926) either, so the reference to Pennell is not clear, and perhaps suggests Sickert was in doubt as to the attribution.
Whistler very rarely made head and shoulders portraits in etching or drypoint at this date (although he did in the 1860s). The vertical shading over the eyes, and rather loosely waving outlines are not typical of his work. The central placing of the head is extremely unusual.
Impression: E220101
However, there is one marginally comparable portrait, that of Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), reproduced above (Stéphane Mallarmé [462]) and therefore Barr's portrait has been included, with reservations, in the catalogue raisonné.