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A Decoy

Francis Barlow (Lincolnshire c.1626 - London 1704)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1667 - circa 1677

Materials

Oil, canvas, gilt frame

Measurements

2540 x 3454 mm (100 x 136 in)

Place of origin

England

Order this image

Collection

Clandon Park, Surrey

NT 1441517

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, A Decoy, by Francis Barlow (Lincolnshire c.1626 - London 1704), circa 1667 - late 1670s. Birds in a landscape, on the ground, and in flight. In the middle ground is a narrow canal with a lock, and a small wooden hut by a tree, into which a figure is entering. The estate is separated from the landscape beyond by a wooden fence crossing the composition. In the foreground are two bitterns, one standing at the far left, and one in the centre, looking upwards and right to the sky, where a red kite is attacking a male mallard in flight, while other mallards protest. Two further mallards, a male and a female, are on a path in the foreground with two moorhens. To the right, by a tree trunk, is a group of lapwings, one of which is in flight. A teal is in flight above the tree, and two others, shown from below, are in the centre-left of the composition, and to the left of the mallard being pursued by the red kite. At the left is a heron in flight, and a woodcock flying down towards the canal. At the top of the composition are more mallards in flight and two swallows.

Full description

Francis Barlow was born around 1626, probably near Manchester. He was this country’s first wildlife painter and a prolific book illustrator and print maker. He’s best remembered for an extraordinary illustrated edition of Aesop’s fables. Barlow completed an apprenticeship with the Painter-Stainers Company of London in 1650. His training combined cutting-edge techniques such as perspective, shading, and modelling of form, with the traditional craft of sign painting. He learned a great deal about drawing creatures ‘after the life’, usually from preserved specimens. By 1665, Barlow had established a shop in London called The Golden Eagle, in New Street near ‘Shoo Lane’, close to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Golden Eagle was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 but Barlow quickly re-established himself; his three large pictures at Clandon were all made during the decade after the fire. Barlow’s prints and paintings revealed such accuracy that naturalists and intellectuals took interest. Copybooks allowed his prints to be used in different ways. They were used in schools to teach children about creatures found in the countryside and by craftsmen who needed reference pictures for coats of arms, shop signs and banners. Barlow was also political. During the Exclusion Crisis, he produced numerous anonymous satirical prints including designs for a pack of playing cards depicting scenes from the Popish Plot and a political emblem glorifying Oliver Cromwell. We have six Barlow paintings at Clandon, one of the largest collections in the country, including three huge 9x11ft canvases. All these pictures were acquired by the Whig MP, Denzil Onslow. The large canvases were probably designed as a trio to decorate the great hall at his home, Pyrford Court. Later the pictures were moved to Clandon Park, which replaced Pyrford as the family seat. The pictures functioned like windows onto the countryside serving as a visual complement to banquets. They would have been seen day after day, designed to be appreciated on many levels and probably decoded over dinner as a form of entertainment. Two of the large paintings, 'A Decoy' and 'Landscape with Birds and Fishes', were cleaned and restored in 2006. (Based on the guidebook written by Nathan Flis for the 2010 exhibition, Francis Barlow: Painter of Birds and Beasts)

Provenance

Evidently, from the dating of NT/CLA/P/86 (1667), one of the three (but possibly more) pictures by Barlow at Clandon originally painted for Sir Robert III Parkhurst, Kt (dubbed 1660; died 1674) at Pyrford; acquired with the latter by Denzil Onslow, MP (1640/1–1721) in 1677, seen by Evelyn there in 1681 (who said that the hall was “adorned with paintings of fowle, & huntings, &c.; the work of Mr. Barlow who is excellent in this kind from the life”), and left by Denzil with Pyrford to his great-nephew, Thomas, 2nd Baron Onslow (1679–1740) at Clandon, where seen by Horace Walpole in 1764 (who mentions “four or five large and good pictures of animals by Barlow”). “Three large Pictures of Fowls” were listed in the Large Saloon in 1778, but only two were mentioned in the house by J.P. Neale in 1826, though he does specifically state that they had come from Denzil Onslow’s seat at Pyrford; Marked in Lady Iveagh’s 1966 Inventory, p47; Accepted by the Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty on the death of Lady Iveagh in 1968 and transferred to the National Trust (1968 Schedule B)

Credit line

Clandon Park, The Onslow Collection (National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

Makers and roles

Francis Barlow (Lincolnshire c.1626 - London 1704), artist

References

Evelyn 1955 John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, edited by E. S. de Beer, Oxford 1955, 24 August 1681 Ambulator : or, a Pocket Companion in a Tour Round London, within the Circuit of Twenty Five Miles, printed for Jane Bew, widow of the original proprietor, London, 1793, p.202 Sparrow 1922: Walter Shaw Sparrow, British Sporting Artists, London, 1922, pp.29-31 Grant, Maurice Harold,. A chronological history of the Old English landscape painters in oil from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century 1947., 1926 edition, vol.1, pl.8; revised edition 1957, vol.1, p.56, pl.26 Colwyn Edward Vulliamy, The Onslow Family 1528-1874, London 1953, pp.24-5 Waterhouse 1994 Ellis K. Waterhouse, Painting in Britain 1530-1790, Pelican History of Art, Harmondsworth, [1st Pub.1953], 1994 ed., p.81 Taylor 1955 Basil Walter Taylor, Animal Painting in England from Barlow to Landseer, Harmondsworth 1955, p.55, pl.5 Whinney, Margaret Dickins. English art 1625-1714 1957., p.278 Clandon Park, Surrey, 1964: [National Trust; Pamela, Countess of Onslow] 1964, p.24 Clandon Park, Surrey, 1979: [National Trust; John Cornforth] 1979, p.27, in The State Dining Room Clandon Park, Surrey, 1983: [National Trust; revised by Christopher Beharrel], 1983, p.30 Waterhouse 1988, Ellis K. Waterhouse, The Dictionary of 16th & 17th Century British Painters, Woodbridge 1988, p.18 Moncrieff and Joseph 1996: Elspeth Moncrieff with Stephen and Iona Joseph, Farm Animal Portraits, Woodbridge, 1996, p.31, colour plate 18 Clandon Park, Surrey, 2002: [National Trust; Sophie Chessum & Christopher Rowell], 2002, p.36, in the State Dining Room Flis 2011 Nathan Flis, Francis Barlow : Painter of Birds & Beasts, Clandon Park, exh.cat., 2011 Solkin 2015 David H. Solkin, Art in Britain 1660 - 1815, Pelican History of Art, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 28, fig. 26

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