cartoonist, painter, illustrator and theatrical designer, was born in Geelong, Victoria, in 1851, according to McCulloch (1984 edn). If so, he must have been the namesake son of Will R. Barnes , a staff artist on Melbourne Punch c.1855-60.
In 1882 W.R. Barnes was listed as a student at the NGV School under G.F. Folinsby . He had a watercolour in the 1890 Victorian Artists Society exhibition. An article in Table Talk of 12 June 1891 praised his watercolours and his theatre designs. By 1892 Barnes was in New Zealand. He painted lake and bush views in 1893 when staying at Papaitonga with naturalist James Buller. He exhibited with the NZ Academy of Fine Arts in 1892-94 as a Wellington member, in 1895 as a Wanganui member. Unless it was his father, Barnes was back in Australia in 1894 working as a cartoonist on the Queensland Boomerang while apparently living in Victoria. Alan McCulloch’s Victoria sesquicentenary regional touring exhibition, Art and the Theatre in Victoria 1844-1984 (Mornington Peninsula Arts Centre, 1984), includes many of Barnes’s designs, including at least 13 watercolour costume designs for the pantomime Djin Djin (script by J.C. Williamson and Bert Royal, with music by Leon Caron) first performed at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre in 1896 (p.c.) and several watercolour costume designs and the program cover for the pantomime Matsa (p.c.) also at the Princess that year. ( Robert Crafter also designed some of Matsa 's costumes.) A working sketch by Barnes for a costume for Matsa was illustrated in the theatre program, while two designs for women apparently of ancient Egypt (i.e. Matsa ) were reproduced in colour on the back cover of McCulloch’s catalogue.
According to Greenop (148), Barnes – like Luther Bradley – went to the USA (c.1897, according to McCulloch 1984). There he became well known as a cartoonist and illustrator, primarily of postcard designs. Most of his work is signed 'W.R. Barnes’.