Barker, Henry Aston (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

BARKER, HENRY ASTON (1774–1856), younger son of Robert Barker [q. v.], the panorama painter, was born at Glasgow in 1774. As a boy he began to assist his father in painting his panoramas. When only twelve years old he was set to work to take outlines of the city of Edinburgh from the top of the Calton Hill observatory, and a few years later made the drawings for the view of London from Albion Mills. These drawings he afterwards etched. In 1788 he came with his father to London, and soon afterwards became a pupil at the Royal Academy. Barker continued to be his father's chief assistant in the panoramas till the latter's death in 1806, when, as executor, he took the panorama into his own hands, and for twenty years carried on the exhibition with great success. He frequently travelled to make his own drawings for his pictures, and in August 1799 left England for Turkey, to make drawings for the panorama of Constantinople. When he arrived at Palermo, he called on Sir William Hamilton, then English ambassador at the court of Naples, and was introduced by him to Nelson, who ‘took me by the hand and said he was indebted to me for keeping up the fame of his victory in the battle of the Nile for a year longer than it would have lasted in the public estimation’ (Barker's memoranda).

The panorama of Constantinople was exhibited in 1802, and the drawings were engraved and published in four plates. In 1801 Barker went to Copenhagen to make drawings for a picture of the battle, and while there he was again kindly received by Lord Nelson. In May 1802, during the peace of Amiens, he went to Paris and made drawings for a panorama of the city. After this many other panoramas were exhibited, the later ones being chiefly from drawings by Mr. J. Burford, who shared with Barker the property in a panorama in the Strand, purchased in 1816 from Mr. Reinagle. Barker, however, still travelled from time to time, and visited, among other places, Malta, where he made drawings of the port, exhibited in 1810 and 1812; Venice, of which a panorama was exhibited in 1819; and Elba, where he renewed his acquaintance with Napoleon. After the battle of Waterloo, Barker visited the field, and went to Paris, where he obtained from the officers at headquarters all necessary information on the subject of the battle. A series of eight etchings by Mr. J. Burnett from Barker's original sketches of the field of battle were printed and published, as were also his drawings of Gibraltar. His last grand panorama was the coronation procession of George IV, exhibited in 1822. Of all the panoramas exhibited, that of the battle of Waterloo was the most successful and lucrative. By the exhibition of this picture Barker realised no less than 10,000l. About 1802 he married the eldest of the six daughters of Rear-admiral William Bligh, who commanded the Bounty at the time of the celebrated mutiny. By her Barker left two sons and two daughters. In 1826 he transferred the management of both the panoramas to Messrs. John and Robert Burford, and went to live first at Cheam, in Surrey, and afterwards in the neighbourhood of Bristol. He died on 19 July 1856 at Belton, near Bristol. In his works, his writing, his conversation, and his dress, the most remarkable characteristics were neatness and precision. A list of most of the panoramas painted and exhibited by the two Barkers will be found in the ‘Art Journal’ for 1857, p. 47.

[Gent. Mag. 1856; Art Journal, 1857, vol. ix.; Chambers's Journal, vol. xiii. 1860.]

R. H.