The Old Barn

Sir George Clausen (1852 - 1944)

Oil on Canvas
Size (inches): 42.5 (h) x 34.3 (w) inches
Size (cm): 108 (h) x 87 (w) cm

Sir George Clausen RA is remembered for an astonishing number of achievements. Among these were the lectures he presented to students at the Royal Academy Schools between 1904 and 1913, his role as war artist between 1914 and 1918 and his commitment to Academy reform, which had begun with his membership of the New English Art Club in 1886.

Born in London, Clausen’s artistic talent was encouraged by his Danish father, who was an interior decorator. A scholarship at the National Art Training Schools in South Kensington was followed by a brief period of study on the continent in Antwerp and Paris. Studies relating to visits to Belgium and Holland appear in Clausen’s sketchbooks from the summer of 1874 and he began to exhibit Dutch subjects in London in the same year until 1883.

Inspired by the Essex countryside, which had been the subject of much of his work since 1891, Interior of an Old Barn is one of a series of barn interiors which Clausen produced from 1897 onwards. This painting was admired by contemporary critics for its atmospheric lighting. The chiaroscuro is pronounced, with the nearest figure seen only in silhouette. Perhaps influenced by his work in pastels, the painting is highly coloured, with light entering the barn from both the side and the rear, and blue highlights showing on the man and ground. The brushwork is free and uninhibited.

By 1908 Clausen no longer lived in the countryside but would regularly spend several weeks at a time sketching around Clavering in Essex. Often, as in this painting the figurative element in his work lessened, perhaps because he no longer had the opportunities to observe labourers at work all year round. A sketch in the Royal Academy collection shows that Clausen was particularly concerned with the pose of the man leaning on a stick. When the painting was first exhibited reviewers appeared to agree that Clausen’s Diploma work was a worthy variation on one of his favourite themes. The Art Journal noted that “Mr Clausen is no stranger to studies of this kind: but he introduces a deeper note.”


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