James Barry
King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia 1786–8

Artwork details

James Barry 1741–1806
King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia
Date 1786–8
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 2692 x 3670 mm
frame: 3026 x 4050 x 195 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1962
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1780

Display caption

Barry was a passionate champion of neo-classical history painting on a vast scale. After initial success he became a martyr to its cause, dying neglected and convinced of the hostility of the art establishment. This is one of Barry's most ambitious paintings, made for Alderman Boydell's 'Shakespeare Gallery', a collection of engraved scenes from Shakespeare by celebrated artists of the day. Boydell held an exhibition of the original pictures in 1789. Here, a heartbroken Lear supports the body of his beloved daughter Cordelia. Barry has set the tragic scene in an heroic landscape with Stonehenge in the background.

September 2004

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