Frank - French Barque ‘France’ off New Zealand Coast by Moonlight

ARTIST: Frank Barnes
DATES: New Zealand 1859 - 1941
TITLE: French Barque ‘France’ off New Zealand Coast by Moonlight
MEDIUM: Oil on board
SIZE: 28 x 39 cm
REMARKS: Signed F.B. Lower Right, dated 1928
dated verso Saturday July 28th 1928
$NZ: Category D
Frank Barnes is considered one of New Zealand's most prolific and treasured maritime artists, although little is known about his somewhat solitary life. Barnes was an oil painter who specialised in ship portraits. He lived for the majority of his life in the Wairarapa.

Frank Barnes first worked as a sailor and then as an itinerant shepherd, living in Barney's Whare on the Riddiford's station at Orongaronga, Wairarapa, from 1895 until his death in Upper Hutt around 1940. The latter part of his life was spent in a hermit-like existence training dogs for the station and painting portraits of ships, which sailed through the harbour entrance.

It is said that he would go into town about once a year to 'knock back his cheque', then having spent it all, he would paint ship paintings for the patron to pay for more drink. He painted from memory with considerable accuracy, utilising his association with ships before becoming a shepherd as his source of reference.

Thus his painting career spanned about 40 years, his earliest works dating from 1899 and the most recent recorded as 1940.

Barnes was a highly competent maritime painter in the naive style. He has extreme significance in the history of New Zealand maritime art because of the length of his career that spanned the transition from sail to steam power. His subjects included both coastal and overseas vessels that ranged in size from tugs to warships.

His work is well represented in both the Auckland and Wellington Maritime Museums as well as public institutions overseas..
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