Joseph V Barber (1757 - 1811)
Joseph Barber was a landscape painter and art teacher. He was an early member of the Birmingham School of landscape painters. Barber was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and moved to Birmingham in the 1770's where he worked painting papier mache and japanned goods. In 1798, he was appointed to teach drawing at the Grammar School on New Street, Birmingham. His pupils included David Cox, Willian Radclyffe and Samuel Lines.
At the time this watercolour was created, the demand for art was changing. The principal works of art in the seventeenth and eighteenth century had been 'portrait' paintings. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the 'landscape' painting was becoming more popular.
This impressive cavern is the Dudley Castle Mill Basin, part of the Dudley Canal Tunnels. There are a number of descriptions, paintings, sketches and engravings of the Castle Mill Basin, mainly from the early-mid nineteenth century. It appears it was a popular site for artists and travel writers and many of the views are from the mine entrance.
Castle Mill Basin is to the east of Forest Road at the north end of Castle Hill (not far from the Black Country Living Museum). the basin is part of the Dudley Canal tunnel which takes the Dudley No.1 canal under the town of Dudley.
The painting is framed by a natural proscenium arch showing the mine entrance with a small figure manoeuvring a boat beyond. In showing the scale of the man being dwarfed Barber is celebrating the impressive engineering feat of the works of man. There is a wooden walkway on the right brought into the foreground and a house shown among the trees above.