George Randolph Barse
(Detroit, Michigan, 1861 - 1938, Katonah, New York)
George Barse, originally from Detroit, was a decorative artist and painter who worked in the classicizing style of the American Renaissance. He studied in Paris between about 1879 and 1885 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Académie Julian, and with French academic painters Jules Lefebvre (1836–1911), Gustave Boulanger (1824–1811), and Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1889). While living in France, Barse successfully exhibited in the Paris Salons, winning a prize for one of his entries in 1882. (1) After his return to the United States, he established himself in New York City. One of several decorative artists commissioned in 1892 to execute mural and ceiling paintings for the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, Barse painted the composition representing Literature on the vaulted ceiling of the second floor’s east corridor.
Like many decorative painters, Barse was active in New York artists’ clubs and organizations because these affiliations helped attract important commissions for architectural work from prominent firms such as McKim, Mead and White. For example, he belonged the Century Club, an organization that included principal artists and architects of the American Renaissance among its members. Barse was also a member and officer of the Society of American Artists, a group founded in 1877 in reaction to the conservative policies of the National Academy of Design. In 1898, while serving as the society’s secretary, Barse won its Shaw Fund Prize. That same year, a group of Impressionist painters (later known as The Ten) seceded from the society because they considered it too conservative. (2)
(1) Lois Marie Fink, American Art at the Nineteenth Century Paris Salons (Washington, DC, Cambridge, and New York: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 318, lists Barse’s Salon exhibition years as 1881 and 1883. See also “George R. Barse, Artist, Ends Life,” New York Times, 26 February 1938, p. 30.
(2) Ulrich W. Hiesinger, Impressionism in America: The Ten American Painters (Munich: Prestel, 1991), p. 18.
American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 2006, cat. no. 40.