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Gustave Adrian Barnes (1877–1921)

by Nancy Benko

This article was published:

Gustave Adrian Barnes (1877-1921), by unknown photographer

Gustave Adrian Barnes (1877-1921), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 29806

Gustave Adrian Barnes (1877-1921), artist, was born on 9 May 1877 at Islington, Middlesex, England, eldest son of John William Barnes, plasterer, and his wife Ann Eliza, née May. The family migrated to Adelaide when Gustave was young and by 1889 his father had formed the firm, Barnes & Neate, builders, plasterers and modellers. Gustave entered the business, also studied the violin, and joined a group of young artists painting in the Adelaide hills. His friend Hans Heysen described him as 'always an enthusiast … out at sunrise and you couldn't get him back till dark'. From 1896 he attended classes at James Ashton's Academy of Arts.

In 1900 Barnes went to Britain, played violin in Sir Edward Elgar's second orchestra, and attended night classes at the Royal College of Art, South Kensington. He was also employed at the Royal Doulton pottery works, designing, modelling and painting. Later, scholarships enabled him to study full time at the college and in 1908 he exhibited a water-colour, 'Suffolk Marshes', at the Royal Academy of Arts. He probably worked for a time in Scotland: he married Annie May, a factory worker, at Kirkcaldy on 4 June 1909 and Heysen spent a summer with him in Fifeshire.

After the death of his father in 1912 Barnes returned to Adelaide to run the family business. In England he had collected old prints, engravings and etchings; his expertise led to an appointment in 1915 to the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, as artist and art supervisor. He was to sort and arrange the print collection for exhibition, help select works for the gallery, and supervise modelling. A sensitive man and a vegetarian, Barnes was conspicuously unassertive, but in his gallery lectures on the development of local art he emerged as 'a cultured and convincing speaker'.

During World War I Barnes's large-scale model of Gallipoli Peninsula was displayed in the public library. A larger relief map went to the Department of Defence's war museum. A bronze bust of Frederic Chapple was commissioned from Barnes by Prince Alfred College old boys and presented to the school in 1918. That year he was promoted curator of the gallery and regularly exhibited rural landscapes with the South Australian Society of Arts. The gallery bought 'Monarch of the Glen', 'Morning in the Hills' and 'Mount Barker from Crafers'. He also played violin in Hermann Heinicke's ensemble.

After a complicated respiratory illness lasting two months, Barnes died on 14 March 1921, survived by his wife and two daughters. He was buried in Payneham cemetery and his estate was sworn for probate at £1886. He had just been appointed to a position in the National Gallery of Victoria. Sir William Sowden, lamenting his death, praised his modesty and cultural versatility. In April, to assist his family, an exhibition of his work was held by the Society of Arts. He had been an artist of considerable promise, who had worked as designer, modeller, etcher, and especially landscape-painter in oils and water-colours.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Holme (ed), Art of the British Empire Overseas (Lond, 1917)
  • N. Benko, Art and Artists of South Australia (Adel, 1969)
  • J. Johnson and A. Greutzner (eds), Dictionary of British Artists 1800-1940 (np, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1915 (13), 1918 (13), 1919 (13)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 15 Mar, 15 Apr 1921
  • Register (Adelaide), 15, 30 Mar, 5 Apr 1921
  • Observer (Adelaide), 1 Sept 1928
  • Museum, Public Library and Art Gallery of South Australia records (State Library of South Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Nancy Benko, 'Barnes, Gustave Adrian (1877–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Gustave Adrian Barnes (1877-1921), by unknown photographer

Gustave Adrian Barnes (1877-1921), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 29806

Life Summary [details]


9 May, 1877
London, Middlesex, England


14 March, 1921 (aged 43)
South Australia, Australia

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