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James Macdonald Barnsley (Canadian, 1861-1929)

The Quays of the Seine

Oil on canvas

Signed and dated lower left "J.M. Barnsley '84"

Size in inches: 23.6 h x 39.4 w (with frame: 30.6 h x 46.4 w)


Price upon request


James MacDonald Barnsley was one of the first Canadians to make an impact in Paris prior to the twentieth century. He had a very short span of productivity, only thirteen years, as a result of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Although he only produced for a short time his works influenced some of Canada’s well know artists, including his Montreal contemporaries William Brymner and Maurice Cullen. 


James MacDonald Bansley (the family later changed their last name to Barnsley) was born on February 20, 1861 in West Flamboro (near Dundas), Ontario. After his father and sister’s deaths and the loss of the family business, he and his mother moved to St. Louis. Barnsley was still in his early teens and was not thriving in regular classes, so at the suggestion of the family doctor he was enrolled in art classes at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. He thrived and by graduation he had already begun to publish images in local magazines. In 1882 he traveled to Paris and began to exhibit at the Salon. His work caught the eye of the artist Luigi Lori, who shortly after began to teach Barnsley. While in Paris he was also tutored by two followers of Troyon, Karl Kasimir Otto de Thoren and Felix-Dominique de Vuillefroy. He continued to paint around Europe until 1887 when he returned to the United States. In 1889 he was hired to teach at the Art Association of Montreal. His schizophrenia was becoming apparent and in 1892 at the age thirty-one he was admitted to Verdun Protestant Hospital in Quebec, but not before destroying many of his paintings. The remaining thirty-seven years of his life he was seldom lucid and sometimes violent. He was never to paint again. He died in hospital on February 25, 1929.


His mother was a strong supporter of his works and as a result today his paintings can be seen at the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Musée du Quebec.

James Macdonald Barnsley (Canadian, 1861-1929) 'The Quays of the Seine' 1884



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