Victorian Artist Charles Burton Barber Captures the Special Bond Between Children and Pets

Growing up in the popular Victorian family seaside resort of Great Yarmouth, England, it might have been happy childhood memories that helped Charles Burton Barber become such a successful Victorian artist of children and pets.

Such was the high regard for his skill, that in 1883 Barber was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters—the only art society dedicated to the Victorian artist specializing in oils.

Great Yarmouth, England, c. 1895
Victorian-era Great Yarmouth, England

His particular talent was for sentimental portraits of dogs, which helped win royal commissions from animal-lover Queen Victoria.

Barber succeeded Sir Edwin Landseer as the Queen’s court painter. One of his most renowned works is of Marco—a beautiful Pomeranian she bought on a trip to Florence, Italy, in 1888.

Marco on the Queen's Breakfast Table by Charles Burton Barber, 1893
Marco on the Queen’s Breakfast Table by Charles Burton Barber, 1893

Related post: Queen Victoria’s Beloved Pomeranians

Queen Victoria and Her Servant John Brown by Charles Burton Barber
Queen Victoria and Her Servant John Brown by Charles Burton Barber

Related post: Queen Victoria, Last of the Hanoverians

The next two paintings, “In Disgrace” and “A Special Pleader”, are two of Victorian artist Barber’s most famous works.

You may notice something similar—it’s the same little girl wiping her tears, having been sent to stand in the corner for naughty behavior.

In each painting, Barber captures the special relationship between dogs and humans. The little puppy is sharing her punishment, while the border collie appears to be pleading with her parents to forgive her.

In Disgrace by Charles Burton Barber
In Disgrace by Charles Burton Barber

Demand for Barber’s work is reflected in auction prices. In Disgrace fetched $639,964 at Christie’s in 2007, with A Special Pleader having been sold for $442,500 ten years earlier.

A Special Pleader by Charles Burton Barber, 1893
A Special Pleader by Charles Burton Barber, 1893
A Little Girl And Her Sheltie by Charles Burton Barber
A Little Girl And Her Sheltie by Charles Burton Barber

Painting animals with human-like expressions was a popular style for the Victorian artist.

Barber knew how to not only convey expressions like excitement, longing, sadness, and protection, but also to render them in a more natural, animal-like way.

The New Whip by Charles Burton Barber
The New Whip by Charles Burton Barber
A Monster by Charles Burton Barber, 1866
A Monster by Charles Burton Barber, 1866
The Rivals by Charles Burton Barber
The Rivals by Charles Burton Barber
Not Much Wrong by Charles Burton Barber
Not Much Wrong by Charles Burton Barber
The Little Baker With Her Two Assistants by Charles Burton Barber
The Little Baker With Her Two Assistants by Charles Burton Barber
A Mischievous Puppy by Charles Burton Barber, 1886
A Mischievous Puppy by Charles Burton Barber, 1886
The Hiding Place by Charles Burton Barber, 1891
The Hiding Place by Charles Burton Barber, 1891
Off to School by Charles Burton Barber, 1883
Off to School by Charles Burton Barber, 1883

The painting “Suspense” shown below was owned by rival soap manufacturers Pears and Lever Brothers. It depicts a beautiful young girl saying grace over breakfast with her pet cat and Jack Russell gazing longingly at the feast before her.

Suspense by Charles Burton Barber
Suspense by Charles Burton Barber
Blond and Brunette by Charles Burton Barber, 1879
Blond and Brunette by Charles Burton Barber, 1879
Coaxing Is Better by Charles Burton Barber
Coaxing Is Better by Charles Burton Barber
Trust by Charles Burton Barber, 1888
Trust by Charles Burton Barber, 1888
No ride today by Charles Burton Barber
No ride today by Charles Burton Barber
Girl with Dogs by Charles Burton Barber, 1893
Girl with Dogs by Charles Burton Barber, 1893
The Two Invalids by Charles Burton Barber
The Two Invalids by Charles Burton Barber
The Broken String by Charles Burton Barber
The Broken String by Charles Burton Barber
I am higher! by Charles Burton Barber
I am higher! by Charles Burton Barber
The New Keeper by Charles Burton Barber, 1888
The New Keeper by Charles Burton Barber, 1888
A Scratch Pack by Charles Burton Barber
A Scratch Pack by Charles Burton Barber
Time to Wake Up by Charles Burton Barber, 1883
Time to Wake Up by Charles Burton Barber, 1883
Lost Chance by Charles Burton Barber
Lost Chance by Charles Burton Barber
Sweethearts by Charles Burton Barber, 1890
Sweethearts by Charles Burton Barber, 1890

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David James

David James

I'm an Englishman in Boston. History is a joy—it binds us, it connects us, it guides us. I'm interested in making history more accessible and more fun. Join me on this fantastic voyage through time.