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  • Writer's pictureWill Topley

Painting a country house and Julian Barrow

Thronton Manor by Julian Barrow.jpg

I had heard of Julian Barrow and seen his paintings long before I met him. I had heard that he would travel the world, arriving somewhere with perhaps two letters of introduction. He would paint a collection of pictures, have an exhibition, then sell all the paintings to the large number of new friends he had made since arriving. He would then move on to another country and do the same again. Actually I didn’t just admire him; if I’m honest I was also a little jealous. One day I was painting an interior of the dining room in a very grand London house and I went downstairs and found him painting a view of the hall. He was completely charming and I liked him right away. We painted together like this for about three days during which time we stopped now and again to look at each others work and to chat. His picture was then finished and he went off to paint a house in St John’s Wood. My painting took a further two months and although he was very nice about it and said that I was doing something really much greater and that his was rather slight in comparison, I couldn’t help feeling that somehow he had the best of it all. A few years later I bumped into him and he took me to see his studio in Tite Street, Chelsea,. It had once belonged to Augustus John and the living and working areas were situated on various different floors. The rooms were tastefully decorated in a Bohemian and rather opulent way and the walls were covered in his paintings, all beautifully framed. Here he held annual parties that were renowned throughout London and the home counties. All pictures were for sale and sell they did. As I left we swore undying friendship and promised to meet up in Wiltshire very soon. Sadly he died last year and his memorial service was crowed out with his friends, more friends than most people would make in ten lifetimes. The address captured him so well and you can read it on line here and also see some of his work

He was famously known as one of the pin-stripe painters, after the sort of clothes worn around the St James’ area of London, where all the gentleman’s clubs are. Certainly, I noticed a number of pictures by him when I was painting a portrait interior at White’s a few of years ago. He told me he trained at Signorina Simi’s, an atelier in Florence where young people went to study painting 30 or more years ago. I think there was a large emphasis on tonal value there and this may have helped him see compositions in a simplified way which enabled him to paint so quickly and yet convincingly. I have read that he studied under Annigoni so I may have mis-remembered what he told me but the end result is the same. Many people who train in the Ateliers in Florence now seem to come out as clones, it can be hard to tell their work one from another but Julian Barrow’s work is easily recognised even before seeing his hand written style signature in the bottom corner.


I still think of him and his paintings, particularly when I am trying to capture something quickly. In fact I have been painting in a house recently where I counted 6 of his pictures so far – there may well be more – and as I go past them I have a look to see how they were done.

I love paintings of country houses and I thought I would try and do one. I painted this at Fosbury in Wiltshire a couple of weeks ago and I have to say it probably owes more than a little to Julian.

Fosbury w

Fosbury, oil on canvas laid in board

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