George Elgar Hicks (British, 1824-1914), Portrait of Geraldine Smith-Barry, 1885
Oil on canvas; 90.5 x 70cm. Signed and dated lower right ‘G E Hicks 1885’
This is recognised as being a portrait of a young Geraldine Smith-Barry, later Honorable (or Hon. for short) because of her father’s peerage of Baron Barrymore conferred on him at King Edward’s coronation in 1902. Geraldine was born in 1869 at the smart address of 26 Chesham Place, London, first child to Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry and his wife Mary Wyndham Quin and likely named after her father’s sister Geraldine. The portrait is signed and dated in the bottom right hand corner ‘G E Hicks 1885’, making the Geraldine 15 or 16 years of age at the time the paint dried on the canvas. She is depicted in a relaxed, pensive and ladylike pose, wearing youthful and fashionable clothing, including a black silk or velvet choker – the kind often seen in the paintings of Manet and Degas. The background is loose and generic, not intended to take from the main subject …
Geraldine enjoyed a childhood full of travel between family estates and homes in England, Ireland and even at one point Algiers, owing to her parents’ health requirement for heat during the winter. When her mother died in 1884, the family established themselves more between their estates of Marbury in Cheshire and Fota in County Cork. She married firstly at the age of 23 or 24, and again at 48 as her first husband Henry Burleigh Lethem Overend passed away. She did not have children with either her first husband, or her second, Major James William David Thomson, and died at the age of 87 in 1957.
The artist, George Elgar Hicks, was good, but not hugely celebrated during his career. He was a very Victorian artist who chose to paint large genre scenes, historical subjects and society portraits. Many of his works are in national collections, such as the Tate Gallery, London.
This portrait is one of our most recent acquisitions, thanks to the generosity of a private donor which enabled the Irish Heritage Trust to purchase this painting at auction in April of 2014.