Thomas Barker of Bath
Thomas Barker was born in Pontypool in May 1769. He was the eldest son of Benjamin Barker, an animal painter and decorator of japanned ware, who brought his family from Pontypool in 1783 to settle in Bath. Barker received his early training through the patronage of the wealthy Bath coach builder and auctioneer Charles Spackman. Under Spackman’s direction, Barker assiduously copied paintings by the Old Masters, gaining a proficient, if somewhat eclectic technique. The influence of Thomas Gainsborough in particular is evident in his early works. Barker studied in Italy from 1790 to 1793, after a brief stay in London, he returned to Bath in 1798, and remained there until his death in December 1847.
In order to provide the essential showroom where he could exhibit his work, a thirty-foot long gallery was included in the plans of the new house built for Barker and his wife Priscilla on Sion Hill, called Doric House. On one wall of this room he painted a large impressive fresco of The Massacre of the Inhabitants of Chios by the Turks. As an expert on fresco technique, Barker advised on the redecoration of the Houses of Parliament in 1841. Apart from some fine portraits in the earlier part of his career, as ‘Barker of Bath’, he was famed chiefly for his rustic subjects and picturesque landscapes.