Reginald Barber’s career has not been documented and very little is known about the Manchester artist’s life.
He was born in Ulverston and studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London where he was awarded a silver medal at the age of 19. He worked as a portrait and genre painter in oil, watercolour and pastel, and became vice-president of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. He exhibited in London at the Royal Academy, the Dudley Gallery and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.
Between 1898 and 1903 Barber gave private art lessons to LS Lowry, who went on to become the most famous painter of the cities and inhabitants of the industrial north of England.
Barber’s The fisher girl reveals, to some extent, his affinity of interests with the Newlyn School painters who dedicated themselves to representing the life of fishing communities on the Cornish peninsula. Fisherfolk were also popular subjects for realist-influenced artists outside England, particularly among members of The Hague School in the Netherlands and the Skagen painters in Denmark.
The fisher girl was given to the Art Gallery of NSW in 1886 by Charles J Royle, consul general for the Republic of Paraguay and an avid collector of modern watercolours.
Adapted from Victorian watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 2017