Royal Academy in Britain, "withdrawal from society" and descent into "increasing depths of introspection and alienation". Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was drawn to portrayals of victims, such as the pictured Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos, which hangs in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna. Philoctetes, alone, abandoned by his former comrades-in-arms and afflicted with a suppurating wound, suggests the artist's powerful identification with his theme. At the same time, the wounded subject has also been correlated with the condition of Ireland, and there's evidence that Barry saw things that way, as well. He combined mythology and actuality in so complex a way that it's challenging to peel away all the layers.
In his Portraits of Barry and Burke in the Characters of Ulysses and his Companion fleeing from the Cave of Polyphemus, which hangs in the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork, Barry portrays himself as the wily Odysseus - ironically the one who abandoned Philoctetes on Lemnos, making for a strange double-identificaiton on Barry's part - leaving the cave of the cyclops Polyphemus with his companion and friend Edmund Burke warning him against the hubris that in the original story brings down Poseidon's anger on Ulysses/Odysseus' head. It's a fascinating glimpse of someone who, like Ulysses, had prodigious talent but knew he couldn't constrain himself from exercising it without compromise. The DIB entry, a model of fact, background and appraisal, is by the art historian Peter Murray, who irrelevantly, also compiled a catalogue of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which until recently was part of the same foundation as my old school.