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Fine Art, Allegorical Female Figure, George Randolph Barse, Antique Pastel, Early 20th Century


George Randolph Barse, Jr. (1861-1938)
[Allegorical Female Figure]
American: c. 1st Quarter 20th C.
Pastel and charcoal on illustration board
Signed lower left: “Barse – Jr. N.A.”
20 x 16 inches, overall

Serene allegorical portrait of a woman in a flowing dress holding aloft a torch and hourglass, seated on a wall beneath a starry night sky with a sliver of moon. The drawing is very much in Barse’s typical style, realist works apparently influenced by Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist painting, depicting allegorical female figures in dress and setting redolent of antiquity. The artist signed this work with the additional inscription “N.A.,” which dates it to after around 1900, when he was made an academician of the National Academy of Design. In fact, it very much resembles the style and treatment of the figure in Vanity (1903) a pastel drawing (online at The Athenaeum, see References below).

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On the back is written “January” which might be the date, but possibly the title, perhaps for an allegorical series representing the months of the year. It may also be an allegory of the new moon, given that there is a tiny sliver of moon in the sky, with the torch representing the coming moonlight and the hourglass, which has just been restarted, the beginning of a new lunar cycle.

George Randolph Barse was born in Detroit and spent six years beginning in 1879 studying in Paris, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the Académie Julien and the ateliers of Jules Lefebvre, Boulanger and A. Cabanel. He won the Academy Prize in Paris in 1882, the New England Prize at Boston in 1885, the first prize of the National Academy of Design, 1895; the Shaw Fund prize of the Society of American Artists in 1898 and the medal of Buffalo Exposition in 1901. In 1898, Barse was elected to associate membershipin the National Academy of Design and became a full academician two years later. Around this time he also joined the Society of American Artists. His other memberships included the Century Club of New York and the Salmagundi Club. He also spent time in Italy, where in 1891 he married Rosina Ferrara (c.1861-1934), also known as Rosa, a beautiful woman and popular model from Capri who had been the subject of numerous paintings by Frank Hyde and John Singer Sargent among others. They settled on an estate in Katonah, New York, and regularly returned to Capri for visits, where Barse would paint. Around 1897, Barse contributed eight allegorical paintings representing different branches of literature to the elaborately decorated walls of the east corridor of the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building Library of Congress; they remain there today. He also was known for his Liberty Bond posters to raise funds for the war effort during World War I. His works are also in the collections of the National Museum of American Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Kansas City Art Institute, and other museums. He continued exhibiting until 1936. Two years later he died, an apparent suicide.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning and wear. Corners variously abraded, bumped, chipped, can be matted out. Vertical crease in board lower right, unobtrusive to sight, professionally reinforced verso.


“Displaying Artworks for George Randolph Barse, Jr.” The Athenaeum. 2000-2004., with detail of Vanity at (13 March 2006).

“Exhibition History of the Art Institute, 1905-1909.” Art Institute of Chicago. 4 August 2005. (13 March 2006).

Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1985. p. 36.

“George R. Barse, Artist, Ends Life.” Originally published New York Times, 26 February 1938, p. 30. Online at JSS Virtual Gallery. 15 October 2004. (13 March 2006).

“On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations in the Buildings of the Library of Congress.” Library of Congress, Jefferson Building. 11 January 2006. (13 March 2006).

Additional information


20th Century