SKANEATELES | Virtually everything about the life of John D. Barrow leads back to Skaneateles.

Though the renowned artist was born in New York City in 1824, he moved to the village with his family when he was just 15 years old. Though he left and set up a portrait studio in New York City, he eventually came back to Skaneateles and lived his later years in the house in which he was raised. He died here and is buried in his family's plot at Lake View Cemetery.

More than 400 of Barrow's paintings - a variety of his landscapes and portraits - are hosted in the art gallery that bears his name at the Skaneateles Library, and "the lion's share are central New York scenes," according to Gallery Director Peg Whitehouse, including some that depict Skaneateles at that time - the lake, the buildings, the people.

Barrow's essence remains in Skaneateles to this day, and the John D. Barrow Art Gallery is preparing for its annual fund drive in October to ensure that essence stays here for generations to come.

"It's how we survive," Whitehouse said of the drive, noting the people in the community always supported the gallery. "They've always taken care of our needs."

All of the paintings on display are original works, and most of them are in their original frames. Taking that into consideration, Whitehouse said the biggest line item in the gallery's budget is maintenance of the paintings.

She said the gallery has teamed with West Lake Conservators on restoration and conservation projects for close to 40 years so that the paintings can be operated on by experts in the field.

"I have an art history degree. I don't know anything about conservation and restoration," Whitehouse said. "It's a science that is very specific and specialized."

Even after a painting has been completely restored, Whitehouse said it still needs attention every 25 to 30 years to keep it looking just the way it did at the time the Barrow created it.

While the gallery has the benefit of a climate-controlled environment to prevent harm to the paintings, Whitehouse said the works still incur the effects of time and atmosphere.

"It's ongoing. It's never-ending," she said of the maintenance of the paintings.

While influenced by the community he grew up in, Barrow also traveled around the Adirondack Mountains, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Long Island Sound and other spots to get inspiration for his art.

"We know he liked to camp," Whitehouse said. "He'd be up there for an extended period of time and bang out a lot of paintings. A lot of places look the same as they did back then, and some are remarkably different."

Whitehouse said Barrow is considered "the second generation of the Hudson River School" as his paintings depict the realism that was the style of the artists who came before him but also show the French impressionism that influenced him as well.

Barrow himself helped establish the gallery for the purpose of public enjoyment of his works, creating the gallery as an annex to the library and opening it in October 1900. Now, the gallery hosts a variety of educational programs and social events throughout the year.

Today, while the gallery is popular with local residents and school groups, Whitehouse said people come from around the world to view Barrow's paintings, hailing from every continent except Antarctica.

"This space is visited, literally, by thousands every year," she said.

One of those visitors this summer was none other than Julian Barrow, the only living descendant of John D. Barrow. A painter himself, Julian Barrow lives in Great Britain and exhibits regularly in New York City.

This summer, he was doing a show in Manhattan when he traveled to the St. Lawrence River to do some painting. Before he flew out of Syracuse back to Britain, he paid a visit to his ancestor's art - the first time in 35 years the younger Barrow had seen the gallery.

"He took it upon himself to come to Skaneateles," Whitehouse said. "He was pleased his ancestor's work was being so well-tended."

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Skaneateles Journal editor Jonathan Monfiletto can be reached at jonathan.monfiletto@lee.net or 283-1615.

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