Barlow the Artist


T. O. Barlow, The Huguenot, 1857, after J. E. Millais, 1852

Thomas Barlow established his reputation as an engraver by producing extraordinarily faithful reproductive prints of popular paintings by the Scottish artist John Phillip (1918–1867). Today, he is probably better known for his engravings after oils by J. E. Millais, beginning with The Huguenot, which remained one of his best-known works.

Barlow’s accomplishments were recognized by the Royal Academy, which made him an associate engraver in 1873, an A.R.A. in 1876, and an R.A. on May 5, 1881: "No member of the Academy," wrote F. G. Stephens in his Athenaeum encomium, "was more respected and cordially esteemed." Barlow fcustomarily attended varnishing day at the Academy, as did his fellow engraver Samuel Cousins; but according to G. D. Leslie, Barlow "was a man of very different appearance and manners, being as lively and sociable as the other was reserved and sedate. He mixed freely in all the fun that went on, was hail-fellow-well-met with every one, extremely kind hearted, and ever ready to help those who needed it."

Also like Samuel Cousins, Barlow worked in the “mixed manner,” primarily mezzotint, but with passages of etching and stipple, rather than line-engraving, a technique that was rapidly fading from fashion. “We have lost a great artist at a time when we can ill afford to do so,” wrote Harry Thornber in 1891:

The art of engraving has for years past been under a cloud, and when in 1887 we lost Samuel Cousins, and then in 1889 Thomas Oldham Barlow followed him, the two best mezzotint engravers of the present generation passed away, and there seems little likelihood of the gap being filled.

Linda Merrill


Leslie, George Dunlop. The Inner Life of The Royal Academy. London, 1914; New York: Benjamin Blom, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v., “Barlow, Thomas Oldham (1824–1889),” by Susanna Avery-Quash, 2004., accessed 4 May 2016.

[Stephens, F. G.] "Mr. Thomas Oldham Barlow, R.A." The Athenaeum, no. 3244 (December 28, 1889): 901–2.

Thornber, Harry. “Thomas Oldham Barlow, RA.” The Manchester Quarterly 10 (April 1891): 131–41. In Papers of the Manchester Literary Club 17 (London: John Heywood, 1891). Thornber's article is largely plagiarized from Stephens's Athenaeum obituary, cited above.


Barlow the Artist