William Gerard Barry was born in Carrigtwohill in County Cork. His father was a local magistrate and he had seven siblings. He studied at the Crawford College and was known as a talented draughtsman. Encouraged by his tutor, Henry Jones Thaddeus, he continued his studies in Paris at the Académie Julian. Barry returned to Ireland, but following a row with his father he left on board a ship travelling from Cobh to Canada. He worked as a deck hand to pay his passage and in Canada he worked his way around until he could again afford to paint. He travelled through the United States and received commissions, including, it is said, one to paint President Wilson. Barry continued his travels south and on to the South Seas. He eventually settled back in Europe and worked from a studio on the French Riviera. He retired in France and is said to have shared a studio with Augustus John later in life. He painted less as he got older, instead preferring to carry out portraits in charcoal. Very few of Barry's paintings are in Irish collections and it is believed that most of them are in America unrecognised.