The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
John W. Barry, Jr.

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John W. Barry, Jr. (1905-1988) - colony photographer

A lifelong Cedar Rapids resident, John Barry was the youngest of six children. His father, a businessman who owned Hawkeye Lumber Company, raised his family with a love of education and the arts. Barry attended Polk Elementary and Washington High School, and then enrolled at Iowa State College (University) in 1924, completing his architectural engineering degree in 1928. While an undergraduate, Barry was an avid photographer, publishing photos in the campus' yearbook, The Bomb.

Married in 1929, Barry found it difficult to work as an engineer during the Depression and rejoined his father's company. During that time, he continued to pursue photography as an interest, doing many portrait sittings. Quickly, Barry's reputation and quality of work allowed him to open a photography studio and to support his family with his camera talents. An advocate of black and white techniques and mixing his own processing chemicals, Barry would spend his professional life charting significant history in Cedar Rapids and eastern Iowa.

His path to the Stone City Art Colony began in his childhood home at 1818 B Avenue in Cedar Rapids. John's older brothers maintained an art studio in the basement of the family home, crafting projects from metal, paint, and wood. Grant Wood, a family friend, was frequently part of the studio group. Barry's mother purchased Wood's first painting to help him pay for needed art supplies. Wood signed the image, an Impressionist-style rendering of a scene of the Palisades on the Cedar River in what is now Palisades-Dows State Preserve (Mount Vernon, Iowa), as "G. Wood," then signed his full name "Grant Wood" at Mother Barry's urgings. Barry's family retains a letter penned by Wood documenting the painting's authenticity.

In addition to his portraiture, Barry also photographed Franklin Middle School and High School drama productions, the Deiman-Barrett Dance Studio school, the Amana Colonies, and World War II veterans attending eastern Iowa schools under the GI Bill, especially at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. Barry maintained a close friendship with Marvin Cone, a Stone City art colony instructor and Coe College art professor; Cone was a regular visitor to the photographer's home. Barry's steady business came from yearbook portraits, Christmas sittings, weddings, and society events. Brides frequently posed in their gowns right in front of the Barry fireplace; the family's home was his studio. Gathered into studio books and displayed throughout salon competitions, Barry's images won numerous American and international awards. He continued to support his home community as a teacher and artist. He died in Cedar Rapids in 1988.

Online Resources for John W. Barry, Jr.:

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. "Artist Archives." Available:

National Public Radio. "Present at the Creation: 'American Gothic.'" (Nov. 18, 2002) Available:

John W. Barry, Jr. - early 1940's. Photo courtesy of his daughter, Shearon B. Elderkin

John W. Barry, Jr. - early 1940's

John W. Barry, Jr. ca.1987 Photo courtesy of his daughter, Shearon B. Elderkin

John W. Barry, Jr., 1987. Featured is his famous 1940 photo "Twin Swings" that appeared in Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

Photos courtesy of his daughter, Shearon B. Elderkin.


When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
Busse Library,
Mount Mercy University
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Telephone: 319-368-6465
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