John Dodgson Barrow (1824 - 1906) is one of those relatively rare artists equally admired for portraits and landscapes. Born in New York City, in 1839 he moved with his family to the small central New York town of Skaneateles. This move was to prove hugely important to Barrow the artist: the majority of his paintings are of people and places located in or near this Finger Lakes village.
Shortly after this move, Barrow was sent to England for his schooling, there he began his lifelong study of painting. On his return he moved to New York City. There in 1856 he opened a studio next to that of Charles Loring Elliott (1817 - 1868), one of America's leading portraitists and a former resident of Skaneateles. Barrow deeply admired and was influenced by Elliott. During this period Barrow sketched Abraham Lincoln when he spoke at Cooper Union in 1860. The resulting portrait, probably Barrow's best-know, is currently owned and displayed by the Chicago Historical Society.
Another influence on Barrow while he lived in New York City was George Inness (1825 - 1894), who encouraged Barrow's new interest in landscape painting. Inness in his early years was associated with the Hudson River School of Art, in time, Barrow's art was classified as "second generation" Hudson River School. Both Inness and Barrow show a thorough knowledge of nature, and their landscapes glorify it, especially their use of light.
Between 1852 and 1879, Barrow's works were included in 19 of the Annual Exhibitions of the National Academy. His paintings were also included in exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Boston's Athenaeum, and the Union League of New York City. Many of these works were oils completed in the winter based on sketches and memories of Skaneateles when Barrow visited in summer.
Barrow returned to Skaneateles for good in the 1880's. He not only continued to paint but involved himself in civic and church affairs, taught in the Department of Fine Arts at Syracuse University, and wrote both poetry and art criticism. He designed the Soldiers and Sailors monument that stands in Skaneateles Lake View Cemetery. In 1900 he designed and built, at his own expense, the John D. Barrow Art Gallery to best display his paintings. He continued to paint until his death in 1906.
In addition to the more than 300 paintings in the Gallery's collection, Barrow's works hang in the Onondaga County Public Library in Syracuse. Other paintings belong to private collectors.