A Masterpiece by Queen Victoria's Favorite Animal Painter at Auction

Charles Burton Barber's 'Only a Shower' will be one of the highlights of this upcoming auction.

Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894), Only a Shower, 1884, oil on canvas, 60.9 x 76.2 cm. Image © Bonhams (detail)
Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894), Only a Shower, 1884, oil on canvas, 60.9 x 76.2 cm. Image © Bonhams (detail)

The painting Only a Shower, by the Victorian painter Charles Burton Barber, is immediately striking with its realism and delicacy of touch. In this work, a young girl surrounded by her three dogs takes up most of the composition, staring at the rain through the window, the only element that brings depth to the scene. She displays a frustrated expression, probably because her urge to go horseback riding has to wait, but her four-legged companions seem to comfort her tenderly.

Related: The Story of the Staffordshire Dog Figurines

Charles Barber, in addition to thoroughness of detail, anatomical precision and technical skill, was known to succeed in giving animals authentic emotions, which were not the mere reflection of human emotions. The artist, highly regarded by both British aristocratic society and the bourgeoisie, was also one of Queen Victoria's favorite painters. Succeeding Sir Edwin Landseer in 1873, Barber portrayed the beloved pets of the Queen, as well as her grandchildren. Paintings of domestic animals were extremely popular during the Victorian era and it was this specialty that helped Barber rise to prominence. 

Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894), Only a Shower, 1884, oil on canvas, 60.9 x 76.2 cm. Image © Bonhams
Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894), Only a Shower, 1884, oil on canvas, 60.9 x 76.2 cm. Image © Bonhams

After a successful career (he attended the Royal Academy, where he won several medals, and his first work was accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy when he was only 20 years old), Barber died when he was not yet 50, but bequeathed a considerable body of work and established himself as Britain's best animal painter.

Only a Shower is one of his finest paintings and will be among the top lots offered by Bonhams at the British Impressionist and 19th Century Art auction in London on September 22. The auction estimate is 70,000-100,000 pounds ($96,000-137,000). 

Related: William Turner: In the Heart of Light

"Only a Shower is an exceptional example of Victorian genre and a prime example of Barber at his best," said Charles O'Brien, Head of the 19th Century Art at Bonhams. "It is brilliantly rendered down to the fine details on the objects that adorn the table and the artist's proficiency at painting animals is self-evident. They are portrayed with great skill and anatomical accuracy, lending a sense of realism to the scene."

It's a safe bet that the house will record a result that matches the quality of the work.

Find the latest auction news on Barnebys Magazine!

Maximize the exposure of your upcoming auction on Barnebys today!