The artist who did the oil painting of Dr. John Snow (see picture at right) was Thomas Jones Barker.  His identity remained a mystery until 2001 when reported in Anaesthesia by Dr. David Zuck.  


Thomas Jones Barker was born in Bath, England in 1815, the eldest son of a prominent painter, Thomas Barker.  At age 19 he went to Paris in 1834 and studied for several years in the studio of Horace Vernet.  During his time in Paris he painted extensively for prominent families, and received many gold metals in regional showings for his work. In 1845 he returned to England, settled in London, and became known as a painter of portraits and military subjects.  He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and many of the most distinguished men of the times sat for him.  It is likely that Thomas Jones Barker became acquainted with Charles Empson (John Snow's uncle) during this time, since Empson was an art dealer in Bath and the Barker family were all well-regarded artists, known as the "Barkers of Bath."  

On the outbreak of the Franco-German war in 1870, Barker became prominent as a painter of military works.  He died in London on March 27, 1882. 

Zuck's Detective Work

How did David Zuck come to identify Thomas Barker as the unknown artist of the John Snow portrait?  The answer lies in good historical detective work.  Zuck was reviewing the published anesthesiology Case Books of Dr. John Snow.  He was interested in Snow's medical practice, other than anesthesiology, and plotted Snow's non-anesthetic house visits on a map of London.  Included among the addresses were the family homes of Thomas Jones Barker and his family: 37 Gloucester Road, 101 Stanhope Street, and 40 Ampthill Square.  The streets (in yellow) are shown below in Cruchley's 1846 map of London.  The homes are located by the northeastern edge of Regent's Park. 

Zuck reasoned that Dr. John Snow was the general practitioner for the Barker family, counting nearly 100 visits to these three addresses in the historical Case Books.  It appears that Thomas Jones Barker painted Dr. Snow in 1846-47, possibly in appreciation for his medical assistance.  

Exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy was founded in 1768.  In John Snow's era, an annual exhibition was held each year in May, and artists were limited to no more than eight works.  Zuck's final proof that Barker painted the Snow portrait appeared in a publication of the Royal Academy Exhibitors.  In 1847, Thomas Jones Barker exhibited three works, one of which was entry 601 listed as "Dr. Snow."  It seems that this was the mysterious 1847 portrait of Dr.  John Snow.  

The momentary fame from the Royal Academy showing likely helped Snow's career, bringing him to the public's attention a mere three years after he obtained his MD degree from the University of London.   


G.F. Cruchley. Cruchley's New Plan of London improved to 1846, Cruchley Map Seller and Publisher, 1846.  

Ellis RH ed. The Case Books of Dr. John Snow, London, 1994.

Stephen L, Lee S (Ed). The Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 1, 1921-22.

Zuck D. Anaesthesia 56, 227-230, 2001.

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