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 Wilfred Molson Barnes  (1882 - 1955)

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Lived/Active: Quebec/New Hampshire / Canada      Known for: landscape and portrait painting, draftsman, photography, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Wilfred Molson Barnes
from Auction House Records.
The Ship Three-Brothers Off Cape Race
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Wilfred Molson Barnes RCA (1882 – 1955) (1)

Wilfred Barnes (AKA: Wilfred Molson Barnes, AKA: W.M. Barnes) was a Canadian painter, draftsman, photographer and educator. (2)

He was born in Montreal, Quebec, lived there most of his life and died there. (3)

His primary mediums were oil on panel and oil on canvas, although, he has works in watercolor, pastel, graphite and mixed mediums. His subjects were landscapes (usually spring or summer scenes, noted for their big skies), portraits, figures, genre*, marine scenes, rivers, mountains, lakes and icebergs. The painting locations include Meriden, New Hampshire – where he had a summer studio; Newfoundland and the north Atlantic – on scientific expeditions with his brother Professor H.T. Barnes; and southern Quebec – the area referred to as the Eastern Townships. His style was Realism*. (4)

Barnes’ education includes the Art Association of Montreal under William Brymner (5), Maurice Cullen, and Edmond Dyonnet; the Chase School of Art / New York School of Art *, New York under William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri and Kenneth Hayes Miller; and the Art Students League of New York* under Frank Vincent DuMond (all circa 1898 to 1905). (6)

In 1905 he founded the Barnes School of Art* in Montreal. His students included Freda Pemberton-Smith, Gerard Perrault (1903), Lorne Holland Bouchard and Albert Sexton (1905). (7)

He was a member of the Pen and Pencil Club, Montreal; the Arts Club of Montreal*; and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (Associate 1920, Academician 1947), whom he exhibited with from 1904 to 1948. He also exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists* in 1919; the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) from 1905 to 1947; and his work was chosen for inclusion in the “British Empire Exhibition”, London, England in 1924. (8)

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* there are 36 Wilfred Barnes works in the permanent collections of Canadian museums. They include: the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), Ottawa Art Gallery [Firestone Art Collection*] (Ontario), Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), and the National Gallery of Canada, which has 3 of his works.


(1) Some sources list his birth year as 1892. The Canadian Heritage Information Network* notes a document, possibly information forms submitted to the National Gallery in the 1940s, that indicate 1892 as a birth year; they obviously consider it an error as their records maintain it is 1882. The 1882 date also coalesces with the marriage of his parents (1864), the birth date of his brother (1873), and the rest of Barnes' biography. Additional source: William S. Barnes biography –

(2) He is listed in a directory of “Montreal Photographers 1840 – 1950” with business dates 1909 – 1913. Source:

(3) Source: Canadian Heritage Information Network*.

(4) Sources: Museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network*; "Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979" (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann; and "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

Note: Wilfred’s brother, Dr. Howard Turner Barnes FRCS, FRS (1873 – 1950) was an important scientist dedicated to the study of ice formations… specifically icebergs. His work was of worldwide interest in the years shortly after the Titanic disaster. Sources: The Canadian encyclopedia (online) –;

and Time Magazine, April 5, 1926 “Iceberg Hunt” –

“This year Dr. Howard T. Barnes of McGill University will try to destroy icebergs at their source, in the Greenland glaciers. Here the ice cap is 7,000 feet thick. Vast bits break off at the sea edges to float south to the Newfoundland banks as bergs. Dr. Barnes hopes to smash the glacier edges with thermite, a chemical which develops enormous heat in contact with ice.”  Source:,9171,751421,00.html.

(5) All artist teachers and artist associates mentioned in this biography, except those with bracketed dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(6) Sources: "The Fine Arts in Canada" (1925), by Newton MacTavish; “The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard; "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references).

Note: In 1898, the Chase School of Art was renamed the New York School of Art and after a few more name changes through the years arrived at its current name – Parsons The New School For Design; which refers to the schools longtime director [1904 – 1930] Frank Alvah Parsons (1866 – 1930) and to its merger with The New School for Social Research in 1970. Source: Parsons The New School For Design –

Note: None of our sources give exact dates for Barnes' study at the various schools. The 1905 date is derived from "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald, which notes it as the date Barnes returned to Montreal from New York and set up his own school. The 1898 date is rough estimate based on Barnes' age, which would make him 16 that year, a likely age to enroll in the AAM. It also fits in a 5 year window between 1895 and 1900 when Maurice Cullen lived in Montreal (between extended trips to Europe) and could have taught Barnes at the AAM.

(7) The exact length of time the school operated could not be determined, but according to Gerard Perrault’s biography he attended it from 1922 to 1927 indicating it was still open in the late 1920s. Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(8) Sources: “The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard; “Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970” (1980), by Evelyn de R. McMann; "Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members , 1880 – 1979" (1981), by  Evelyn de R. McMann; and "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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