George Barret, Irish, 1728/32-1784
Title: View of Powerscourt Waterfall
Date: c.1760
Medium: Oil on canvas
101.5 x 127.5 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1880
Object Number: NGI.174
DescriptionThis is one of several depictions by Barret of the famous cascade at Powerscourt, at 116 metres the tallest waterfall in Ireland. Barret spent many hours painting on the Powerscourt demesne, having been introduced to Lord Powerscourt by his close contemporary, the prodigious philosopher Edmund Burke. The composition celebrates the ‘sublime’ in nature, a concept popularised by Burke. He maintained that the sublime encompassed that which was vast, awe inspiring, terrible and uncontrollable in nature, whereas ‘the picturesque’ denoted that which was tranquil and serene. Barret emphasises the sublime character of the scene by placing in the foreground a group of diminutive figures, physically insignificant when compared to the rockface, waterfall and tall trees – themselves planted to enhance the scene – amongst which they stand. The bold manner in which the foliage and terrain are handled is typical of Barret, as is the colour range, which includes pink, terracotta and ochre touches. In his early thirties, Barret left Ireland for London, where his work was widely admired. He and Nathaniel Hone were the sole Irish artists among the 34 founding members of the Royal Academy.

March 2016
ProvenancePurchased, Christie's, London,1880
Exhibition HistoryExhibition, Society of Artists, London, 1764

Painting in England and Ireland, 1700-1900, Marist Hall, Dundalk, 1970

James Arthur O'Connor, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, November - December 1985; The Ulster Museum, Belfast, February - March 1986; Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork, March - Aril 1986

Thomas Roberts, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 28 March - 28 June 2009
Label TextBarret painted the celebrated Powerscourt Waterfall in Co. Wicklow on several occasions. He was praised for the topographical accuracy of his work, but often manipulated and/or romanticised his views. Here, he accentuates the height of the waterfall and includes diminutive human figures in order to convey the vast, overwhelming potential of Nature, and its capacity to evoke such primal sensations as fear, solitude and wonder.

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