Robert Barr, an artisan, teacher and journalist, married Eva Bennett. They had a daughter Laura.
Robert Barr was educated in Toronto. In 1876 he joined the staff of the Detroit Free Press. He settled in London in 1881. In 1892 Barr founded the Idler paper, together with Jerome K. Jerome. During the winter of 1894 he met JW.
JW painted Barr's portrait in 1894/5, Portrait of Robert Barr (YMSM 428). One day Robert brought his daughter, a 'dainty child with... wonderful hair' according to the Academy, to the studio with him and JW, taken with her, asked if he might paint her portrait. This being agreed upon, Eva Barr accompanied her daughter to her daily sittings. The Academy recorded that the resultant portrait, Portrait of Miss Laura Barr (YMSM 429), was spoken of by JW as 'one which should add greatly to his reputation and those of his intimates who had seen the picture in the making were of one mind as to its value'. Sickert recalled that the portrait was painted at his studio at 13 Robert Street, therefore between December 1894 and March 1895, and that he made a pencil drawing of Laura whilst JW was painting her. This drawing was acquired by the Barr family.
Academy, London, 10 October 1903, p. 390; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, Sickert, W., 'Where Paul and I Differ', Art News, no. 14, 10 February 1910, p. 113; Sickert, W., 'L'Affaire Greaves', New Age, 15 June 1911, pp. 159-60; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.