Also known as
Gwendoline LaVence Barringer,
Gwen Barringer was a painter of traditional subjects, most notably flowers. An active member of the South Australian arts scene, as Vice President of the (Royal) SA Society of Arts in 1938 she was its first female office bearer and on her death she bequethed funds to establish several prizes for flower painting in watercolour.
painter, was born in Adelaide on 29 July 1882, daughter of Adam Adamson. She studied at the SA School of Design under H.P. Gill and Archibald Collins, then privately with Hans Heysen. She married fellow-artist Herbert Barringer (brother of Ethel Barringer ) in 1910. Her work at that time consisted mainly of landscapes – 'gum trees under various atmospheric conditions’, according to Society magazine – doubtless inspired by the country hikes and rambles that she and her husband went on together. The Barringers spent a lot of time out of doors. At first they camped overnight in tents but by 1916 they had a weekender set on 80 acres with Heysen as a neighbour. A booklet, The Mystery of the Bush (Adelaide: Hussey and Gillingham Ltd., 1916), written by her husband was illustrated by Barringer.
Associated with the [Royal] SA Society of Arts for over 30 years, Gwen was elected a Fellow in 1912. She held at least two solo exhibitions in Adelaide before World War I and, according to Muriel Farr in Lone Hand (1916), just missed out on a Melbourne exhibition because of the outbreak of war (she was a member of the Victorian Artists’ Society). Farr was impressed by Gwen’s output: 'Despite accepted tenets as to the impossibility – for a woman – of combining a career with matrimony, she has found the greatest development of her work since her marriage.’ Barringer continued to paint in watercolour; she became interested in painting the city rather than the bush when she visited Paris in 1926. Some of her most interesting cityscapes were painted during visits to Sydney in the early 1930s when she recorded the progress of the building of the Harbour Bridge. She also specialised in delicate and competent still lifes, especially flower studies. She taught at the School of Arts and Crafts (previously the School of Design) where she herself had studied. She was considered a thorough and competent teacher although often at odds with colleagues and students through her lifelong adherence to traditional subjects and techniques.
Gwen and Herbert Barringer were divorced in 1938. Gwen remained an active member of the art community, being elected vice president of the RSASA that same year – its first woman office bearer. She died in Adelaide on 26 August 1960 after a long illness, bequeathing funds to establish three prizes for flower painting in watercolour.