After his official retirement from comic book work in 1966, Carl Barks began to explore the world of painting. He had dabbled briefly with watercolours on earlier occasions but he found the work so interesting and tempting that he decided to let it alone! For how else would he have time for his comic book stories? But when he began his golden years he started to paint with oils under the supervision of his wife Garé who was a very skilled landscape painter. For the remainder of the 1960s Barks mainly painted simple landscapes, but he also ventured into portrait series of young girls; some were placed in exotic surroundings, while others were either native American Indian girls or cowgirls (see more HERE), but he started out with a few paintings of very young girls in different settings. This page introduces you to Barks' first official portrait paintings of young girls and some of the 'feeling around' sketches (as he called them himself) he used for inspiration.





  Rose of Tralee

The Rose of Tralee festival is an international, annual competition which started in 1959 and is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world. The festival takes its inspiration from a nineteenth century Irish ballad of the same name about an authentic teenager named Mary O'Connor, who lived in the hamlet of Tralee in the southwestern Ireland and, because of her beauty, was called The Rose of Tralee.

It is plausible that Barks heard of the festival and decided to offer his version of the young lady as his first official portrait painting. He might even have visited the local Tralee festival taking place at the nearby Toluca Lake near Burbank, Los Angeles. Anyway, the painting's actual composition is not publicly known today, probably because Barks sold it shortly after completion, and neither photograph nor description has survived. Therefore it is anybody's guess exactly what it looks like. The sketches from the time appearing here are nothing but plausible possibilities.

Update from January, 2017: Among his files the editor of this website has just discovered the stunning, titled sketch (to the left) of the later painting. It has never been known to exist before! Consequently, some of the speculations above have now been rendered obsolete...



  Spring in Samarkand

The next year Barks completed this painting which measures 230x180mms and is painted on Masonite. As both the title and the background suggest the setting is slightly Arabic/Eastern inspired.

This was not Barks' first attempt in that field; in fact, he had just completed another painting called Allah's Little Lamplighter, which supposedly was set in the same region, but it has been lost since then, and nothing more than the title is known about it. Still, it is logical to imagine that the portrait - if it showed a portrait - would have featured a small boy.



  What a Nerve!

Barks seems to have been interested in motifs with religious undertones in his first painting years, and his third girl portrait shows this with a girl in front of a stained glass window design not uncommon for certain Christian churches. About a quarter of a century before Barks had dabbled with semi-religious motifs in his watercolours, so this was obviously a subject that appealed to him (see more HERE). In the same period of time he also made several paintings of churches from his neighbourhood (see more HERE).

The painting measures 250x210mms and is made on Masonite. It is also the first one on which we are introduced to Barks' special numbering system, which he copied from Garé. The official code is 23/67 meaning that it is the 23rd finished painting (in all categories) from 1967. Later on, Barks made sure that all his paintings of both ducks and non-ducks were furnished with specific numbers for easy identification.   Date 2009-03-22