Death of General Wolfe, 1776
 oil on canvas
 Signed lower right, James Barry Pinxt.
 Webster Canadiana Collection, W1987
  On 13 September 1759, French and British forces met in battle on the Plains of Abraham near Québec City. It was a decisive episode in the Seven Years' War and changed the course of history in North America. The two military leaders, French General Marquis de Montcalm (1712-1759) and British General James Wolfe (1727-1759), both died from wounds suffered in the conflict. That the British prevailed and power in North America subsequently shifted has echoed down through history.
  Irish artist James Barry settled in London in 1771. He was already known there in artistic circles through connections and a previous stay in the mid-1760s. Barry's return to London happened to coincide with the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Benjamin West's landmark Death of General Wolfe. Barry, who considered himself a rival to West in the field of history painting, undoubtedly felt the enormous impact of West's success. He must have decided to mount a challenge, in part redressing the acknowledged historical inaccuracy of the famous painting.
  Barry's Death of General Wolfe was exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1776. Appearing just five years apart, the West and Barry treatments were bound to be compared. While straying from the known facts of Wolfe's death, West had created a grand theatrical drama. In striving for greater accuracy, Barry carefully studied reports of the event and developed a simpler composition, which he claimed also possessed a more ennobling spirit. Despite its merits, Barry's painting was not well received. It could not withstand comparison to West's wildly popular and well established version. Disheartened by public reaction, Barry never exhibited at the Royal Academy again and his painting sank into obscurity. Since its rediscovery in 1901, however, it has come to be recognized as an integral part of an important chapter in British art.