Thomas Barker of Bath
English painter and lithographer, Thomas Barker was born in Trosnant, Pontypool in 1769. Barker’s youthful talent for drawing and sketching attracted the attention of Charles Spackman, a wealthy coach builder and property developer. Spackman took Barker in and had him educated at Shepton Mallet Grammer School. Barker copied landscapes of the Italian and Flemish schools as well as those of Gainsborough.
In 1790, Spackman arranged an exhibition for Barker. The exhibition proved to be profitable for both parties, subsequently Spackman sent Barker to Rome for three years, to study and learn the art of fresco painting. Barker’s second exhibition was in 1793 in Bath and included works sent back from Rome.
Barker returned to England in 1793 and established himself in London, showing at the Royal Academy of Arts. By 1800 he had achieved only moderate success, so he decided to resettle in Bath and become a provincial painter, specializing in rustic genre paintings, studies of local characters and landscapes. He exhibited more than once at the British Institution, was well patronized by the local people and, eventually, he amassed a small fortune.
One of Barker’s most innovative works is “Impressions of Rustic Figures After Nature”, the first one-man collection of lithographs ever printed in England.