James Barry

King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia

1786–8

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2692 x 3670 mm
frame: 3026 x 4050 x 195 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1962
Reference
T00556

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.

Gallery label, September 2004

Video

King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia by James Barry

RSC actor, Greg Hicks reflects on the complexities of Shakespeare's tragic hero and how the artist has explored these ...

Video

King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia by James Barry

Tate curator, Tim Batchelor, talks about composition and the visual storytelling that appear in this picture.

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