Barker Fairley was a scholar, a literary and art critic - and an artist. Decades after his death he remains a respected German scholar on Goethe.
It was his writing on the Group of Seven that first brought Fairley into art. The Group of Seven invited Fairley to join several of their famous sketching trips. As an art critic in the 1920s, he was their enthusiastic supporter. Their relationship left a deep impact on Fairley's understanding of the land. It has been said that Fairley considered his portraits to be landscapes of the face. After a 40-year career at University of Toronto, in retirement he devoted considerable time to his painting (see his 1981 book, Portraits) and enjoyed increasing recognition as a painter of portraits, landscapes and still-lifes. Over the course of his life, Fairley accumulated many honours, including the Order of Canada.