Page 70 - The Hunt - Fall 2019
P. 70

                THE FICTIONAL REALIST
 large beech tree with squiggles under it—green moss and a redheaded woodpecker. “That’s the idea for the painting, but I have three different backgrounds in mind,” he says, sketching three ideas: a row of trees “like prison bars,” fog and a cliff. “They may represent three different paintings. I won’t know until I start.”
Barr took many photos on Nantucket, which
he’s been going through in the weeks since. “I’ve gotten a good, solid 50 ideas in the last three months to add to the ones left over
from the last time,” he says, sounding a bit overwhelmed. “Once an idea is complete, the painting may take five months, perhaps needing redesign—or I’ll think of something else.”
He smiles. “You can’t ask for anything better.”
We arrive at Somerville Manning just
as manager Rebecca Moore is opening for
the day. Barr carts in the cardboard box containing his latest work. As he pulls it out, Moore laughs. “Aw, the pumpkins are back.” At a gallery show a few years back, a pumpkins-in-the-foreground painting didn’t sell. Barr liked the composition, so he painted the pumpkins out of the flowing landscape. When he brought the repurposed work
back for his show two years ago, the late Frolic Weymouth—himself an accomplished artist—asked, “What happened to the pumpkins? I liked the pumpkins.” So did a friend of Wyeth’s, a local collector who had some of Barr’s works. So he agreed to make her a third painting—the one now leaning against Somerville Manning’s wall.
After a few minutes, the painting is re-packed for delivery later in the day, and Barr asks, “Are you ready to go see the tree?”
Barr has been obsessed for decades by
a huge sycamore he first saw in an N.C. Wyeth painting at the Reading Museum
and subsequently spied in some of Andrew Wyeth’s works. “I said, ‘I gotta find that tree,’” he says. And he did. Since then, he’s used
it as a focal point in many of his paintings. The tree overlooks bustling Route 1 on the grounds of Lafayette’s Headquarters, the
old Gideon Gilpin House, in Brandywine Battlefield Park. Barr’s 2017 painting “Lafayette’s Headquarters, Full Moon” is currently for sale online for $33,000.
We park at the battlefield’s headquarters and set out across a grassy knoll toward the farmhouse. From our approach, the huge tree is hidden until we’re about 50 yards away. “Isn’t it a monster?” poses a beaming Barr as we round a corner. “It has such ... symmetry.” The huge mottled sycamore is more than
350 years old, its giant limbs branching out at all angles like Medusa’s hair. Barr begins snapping photos. “I’m coming back later this afternoon with a friend and a ladder,” he says. “I want him to take my picture sitting on that first limb.”
The next day, my email inbox is full of renderings of the iconic sycamore painted by Barr and the Wyeths. There’s also a photo of Barr perched on its lowest branch, looking like a delighted schoolboy.
    68 THE HUNT MAGAZINE
fall 2019
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