Barry, William Gerard (1864–1941), landscape and portrait painter, was born in Ballyadam, Carrigtohill, Co. Cork, where his father, Patrick Barry, was a local magistrate. Though not academically gifted, he showed a talent for drawing early on, and having left his local school, he attended the Cork School of Art, where he studied under Henry Thaddeus Jones. Jones advised him to continue his studies in Paris, and after a period in London he moved there and found work as a portrait- and landscape-painter. While there in 1886, he is reported to have jumped fully clothed into the Seine to rescue a drowning man and boy, for which he was awarded the Humanité medal. In 1887 he was living among a small artists’ colony in Étaples, Pas de Calais, from where he sent the Royal Dublin Society a painting entitled ‘Abandoned’, which won the Taylor art competition. The following year he submitted his painting ‘Time flies’ to the RA, the exhibition catalogue giving his address as Cork. On his return visit to Ireland, he broke with his father, who turned him out of the family home with very little money. Subsequent visits home were few. He left for Canada; without the money for his fare, he worked as a deckhand to pay for his passage. After a period of employment as a horse-breaker on a ranch and a sign-painter, he left Canada for the United States, where by 1913 he had established himself as a successful portrait painter. In 1926 he was listed as working in New York. He is also known to have spent time in the South Sea Islands, where he painted and travelled around the islands in the company of the writer Frederick O'Brien. He subsequently returned to France, settling for a time in the Riviera, where he rented a studio from which he produced charcoal portraits of well known people. During his later years he received an annuity which left him financially secure. A letter to his family in Ireland from an English civil servant attached to the Foreign Office's prisoners-of-war department throws some light on his later years. It was suggested that Barry (with a yearly income in excess of £2,000) was willing to return to Ireland, but feared his ‘family would shut him up and this way he would lose control of his money, his greatest love in life’. The letter goes on to add: ‘He likes looking at his sketches and thinking of the past. It keeps his mind off regretting what he could have done with his money and didn't’ (Snoddy, 22). He died 9 September 1941 in his pension in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, during a bombing raid; he never married.
John Gilbert, ‘A record of authors, artists, and musical composers born in County Cork’, Cork Hist. Soc. Jn., xix (1913), 168–81; Julian Campbell, The Irish impressionists: Irish artists in France and Belgium 1850–1914 (1984); Snoddy