Liberation of Moscow Immortalised on Canvas

Fires of Victory, MoscowA
remarkable painting named ‘Fires of Victory, Moscow,’
by Sir Claude Francis Barry (1883 – 1970) is to be sold
at Bonhams’ forthcoming sale of 20th Century British Art
on 11 July in London. Last year saw the 60th anniversary of
the celebrations, so it is fitting that this painting is likely
to attract bids above its upper estimate of £60,000, creating
a world record price for the artist.

The Fires of Victory in Moscow would have been lit to celebrate
VE day one day after the rest of Europe, on 9 May 1945. The
Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, refused to accept the surrender
signed in Rheims on 8 May, and he insisted the treaty was ratified
in Berlin the following day.

Until recently, Barry was not a familiar figure on the auction
scene and indeed details about his life remain something of
an enigma. Born into a wealthy aristocratic family, he sold
few paintings during his lifetime and left a prodigious body
of work in his studio when he died. He studied at Newlyn and
St Ives, and exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society
of British Artists and the Salon des Artists Français.
In some ways his style was more aligned to French than English
painting, and during the First World War he began experimenting
with the French style of ‘Pointillism.’ From this
he went on to develop the style he is best known for today,
as Bonhams’ Head of Paintings, Caroline Oliphant, explains:

“Many people now associate Barry’s best works with
a variation of a movement known as Divisionism – he separated
colours into spots and used them in conjunction to deliver a
more vibrant result. It was this style that he chose for a number
of the large-scale, war-related canvases of the 1940s, and which
delivers such a spectacular result in ‘Fires of Victory,

In 2001 Bonhams discovered a wonderful Pointillist work by
Barry in a private collection, and ‘Victory Celebrations’
sold for what was then a world record price of £45,500.
Later in the same year Bonhams broke that record with ‘Blitz
on St Paul’s’ which realised £49,900 –
a sure sign that the art world was finally taking note of this
highly individual and capable painter.

While the record for a Barry painting currently stands at £83,980,
Bonhams is confident that the high degree of interest in his
work combined with the Russian subject matter, will secure a
new world auction record for the artist. Russian art and subjects
of Russian interest are currently attracting enormous interest
in the art world, as evidenced by the success of Bonhams’ inaugural
Russian Sale late last year. Bonhams’ next Russian Sale will
take place at 101 New Bond Street on 1 June.

The painting is oil on canvas and measures 137 x 171.5 cm

For more details visit the Bonhams
web site.

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