"Free Mason Street, Norfolk, Virginia"
by Robert Carlyle Barritt
ROBERT CARLYLE BARRITT
(American, 1895 - 1979)
Oil on canvas, 14 x 12 inches (canvas), 21 x 19 inches (frame), 22k gold leaf hand-carved frame. Signed lower left, verso: “Free Mason Street, Norfolk,VA, painted Feb. 4, 1935.”
A very interesting American Regionalist painting with a Southern subject-matter. Artist Robert Carlyle Barritt painted in the tradition of the Pennsylvania Impressionists. Born June 23, 1895 in Pittston, Pennsylvania, he lived in West Pittston, on the banks of the Susquehanna River until 1957. That year he and his wife, Sinclaire Westbrook Barritt, moved to Charlottesville, in her native Virginia. The he continued to paint portraits and landscapes until he died in 1979 in Lexington, Virginia. He was educated at Bellefonte Academy and later attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the New York School of Art and the Manhattan School of Art where he was curator for two years. He then studied with Norman Rockwell and New Hope painter R. Sloan Bredin. Barritt served in the Army in World War I where he drew surgeries for the Medical Corps. His works, portraits and landscapes in oils are found in homes, businesses, churches and other institutions from North Carolina to New York. He instructed art classes at Lehigh University and the Princeton Sketch Club. He exhibited at a number of venues including the Audubon Artists, American Veterans Society of Artists and the Society of Independent Artists. During World War II he painted over 100 portraits of men and women in service. In his lifetime, he often painted portraits of children. He would meet the child and take numerous photographs and make notations as to paint colors he would use. In a rather brief time, he would return the finished portrait, which he framed himself. In the Impressionist tradition, he made many of his own frames, painting or gilding them. He favored wood with worm holes and a light wash of color on the frame to compliment the painting it held. His landscapes most often depicted rural scenes from the Pennsylvania Poconos or the Blue Ridge Mountains or the areas around the Delaware, Lehigh, Lackwanna and Susquehanna rivers. Many landscapes feature scenes from New Hope, Pennsylvania where he often spent the summer with his family. Rockport, Maine and Williamsburg, Virginia were also favorite painting spots. The coal mines, so prevalent in the area of Pittston, inspired a number of paintings. He almost always signed his work in red print letters on the lower right hand of the painting. The signature reads “Robt. Carlyle Barritt.” Barritt rarely dated his work. He often used blues and greens to great advantage in his landscapes and had a knack for capturing the ever-changing skies of his native Pennsylvania. Barritt’s son, Westbrook Barritt, says his father was a workaholic who waited on customers in his father’s paint store during the day and painted late into the night at his studio upstairs in the family’s large house on Susquehanna Avenue.