Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/322

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Barry
Barry
316

he had been appointed by her majesty treasurer of the academy, and earned, according to the testimony of his colleagues in the council, their warm personal regard and fullest confidence.

It remains to record Barry's disappointments. He was one of the nine architects selected in 1862 to compete for the Albert Memorial, when Sir G. G. Scott was successful. In 1867 the general competition of designs for the erection of the new law courts took place, and if the report of the judges and professional referees had been followed, this work would have been entrusted to Barry. It was generally felt at the time that no little injustice was done him in passing him over. Nor did the consolation offered by the government in the shape of entrusting him in 1868 with the erection of a new National Gallery prove effectual; for he was limited to the task of constructing additional rooms without any alteration in the present frontage. As picture galleries these rooms are admirably conceived. But, as originally designed, Barry's proposed building was a great and worthy conception, combining classical symmetry with picturesque effect. We must, therefore, remember that he never had the opportunity of executing the best thing he ever designed. On Smirke's death the entrance to the new galleries remained unaltered, and therefore unsuited to Smirke's handsome building. The task of providing an adequate approach was committed to Barry, and under his design the effective and ornate doorway and easy stair of approach through the old building of Burlington House were substituted for the former steep staircase. A resolution passed by the council soon after his appointment, and which he believed to be particularly directed against himself, prohibited for the future the employment of their treasurer as architect. He says in a letter: ‘What with the injustice I have suffered about the Law Courts, National Gallery, and this (a demand from the government for all his father's drawings and papers connected with the Westminster Palace), it seems as if there was a dead set made against me, and I am tempted to quit a profession where such things are possible.’ These and other vexations unfortunately rankled in his mind, and no doubt hastened his end. He used to regret sometimes that he had not chosen the bar as a profession, and more than once declared that it ‘seemed sufficient for anything he would have liked to come in his way for it to end in failure.’ For some time before his death he would seem to have had a presentiment of it. Only ten days before it he gave some minute directions to his son on the eve of departure for a few weeks' relaxation on the continent so that, as he said, ‘if I am called suddenly away, you will know what I wish.’ He had suffered for years from sleeplessness, and used to spend many wakeful hours in reading, chiefly biography, history, and books of travel. On the morning of the day of his death, Tuesday, 27 Jan. 1880, however, he was cheerful about the future, and left home, saying, ‘I shall be back late to-night,’ as he had a meeting of council of the Royal Academy to attend. It was when about to move a series of resolutions at this meeting that he suddenly staggered into the arms of his friend Pickersgill, and, only exclaiming ‘Who is it?’ expired in the midst of his friends and colleagues. The cause of death was apoplexy and weakness of the heart's action. On the following Tuesday, 3 Feb. 1880, he was buried in the Paddington cemetery, Willesden. Simplicity, earnestness, love of truth and justice, and great amiability and kindliness, were the prominent qualities which distinguished him in private life. He was a hard worker, and left many unexecuted designs. Barry devoted himself exclusively to no style, though he handled all with success. His methodical habit of mind and keen sense of proportion led no doubt to the preference for classic design in most of his compositions. He did not hesitate to declare his opinion that the prevalent taste for what was called ‘pure Gothic’ in architecture was no more than a passing fashion of the day, unsuited to the real demands of the people. But he was no slavish ‘classicist,’ and his best designs of this nature, such as the Covent Garden opera-house, the Birmingham and Midland Institute, and others, exhibit a freedom of treatment which shows he was not insensible to the charms of the picturesque. In street buildings, indeed, his leaning was towards a blending of classic and Gothic, such as occurs in one of his most successful designs, that for the new buildings in Temple Gardens on the Thames Embankment. And it was in the freedom afforded by the so-called Italian Renaissance that he seems to have found the happiest scope for the expression of his artistic ideas. Like his father he was eminently practical in architecture. In planning he was admittedly a master. He was never satisfied with less than the very best arrangement and execution of practical detail in every building he undertook, and it is to his energy and conscientiousness in this department of his profession, as much perhaps as to his skill in artistic conception, that he owes the reputation he has left behind him of one of the foremost architects of his time.