rlene M. Jackson in Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy (1981) credits illustrator Robert Barnes with providing the reader of the Graphic serialisation of The Mayor of Casterbridge with an expanded narrative that employs the "'business' within a scene (such as pictures, screens, and various framing devices‐not all of which are present in the text)" (104) to emphasize not merely key moments but rhythms and patterns in the letterpress.
What is more, because of their special insights into character, the realistic and metaphoric uses of detail, and the selective stresses created through choice of scene which illuminate the novel's inherent rhythmic pattern, the Barnes illustrations become a visual expansion of Hardy's text. 
Perhaps, as Pamela Dalziel postulates, in creating an easily interpreted narrative-pictorial accompaniment to the serial novel Barnes has tended to oversimplify the story's issues of class and gender to render their presence more acceptable to a primarily urban and middle-class readership. "That Barnes's interpretations should have prompted Hardy to make his central female characters more conventional is a striking testimony to the power of the visual to influence the verbal" (83). Hardy's pictorialism was an aspect of his writing long before The Mayor of Casterbridge. As a young architect in London during his lunch hours he had haunted museums and galleries (The National Gallery being within walking distance of Arthur Bloomfield's offices in the Adelphi Terrace), recording his impressions and accumulating a bank of images drawn from the Old Masters to whom he constantly alludes in his fiction. Carl J. Weber (p. 297) notes allusions to thirty-four artists, from the early Renaissance fresco painter Giotto through to such nineteenth-century artists as Nollekens, Flaxman, J. M. W. Turner, Wiertz, Danby and Van Beers. "All these references to paintings, particular painters or schools of art, the use of iconographic images, as well as general references to light, framing, composition, design and other ingredients of the pictorial technique create the special Hardy signature" (Jackson 9).
In The Mayor of Casterbridge, allusions to greater and lesser works of European art are not always functional since even a reasonably well-informed reader would not to be familiar with some of the images that Hardy verbally conjures. These frequent artistic allusions have been decried by some critics as the writer's artificially imposing his self-taught knowledge upon the flow of the narrative — what Weber calls "a cheap parade of the novelist's learning" (9) — but it is much more likely that Hardy's motivation was to emulate the erudite style of George Eliot, even though such allusions, especially to the works of relatively minor artists, "often seem like annoying intrusions in the narrative" (Weber 39). Speaking of Hardy's verbal portraiture in The Return of the Native, Lloyd Fernando that Hardy's tendency to allude "to actual paintings to embellish his writing . . . deeply influenced his style as a whole" (63).
Hardy believes he is appealing to our imagination but it is truer to say that he is reconstructing visual images recalling paintings he has either seen or built from fantasy. His pictures are less pictures of reality than pictures of pictures. 
In The Mayor of Casterbridge Hardy's allusions to such well known artists as Corregio and Titian markedly enhance his verbal portraiture, although a reference to the Farnese Hercules in Naples would have had full significance only for those privileged enough to have had the nineteenth-century equivalent of the Grand Tour. Pictures performing a number of functions often occupy the middle space in Barnes's illustrations, as, for example, the banners in Plate 2, which constitute advertisements designed to appeal to the illiterate, and the small-scale landscape paintings that constitute decoration in Susan and Elizabeth-Jane's room at the inn (Plate 2) and Farfrae's drawing room (Plates 19 and 20). Indicative of greater symbolic meaning are the heavily-framed oil paintings in the interior backgrounds that reinforce the social climbing of Michael Henchard (Plate 7) and of Donald Farfrae (Plate 16), emblems of comfortable affluence if not aesthetic discernment. Hardy does not focus on the pictures here as he does in A Laodicean, and Barnes uses an out-of-focus approach that renders these background pictures mere images, that is to say, embryonic rather than developed pictures because he intends them to convey an impression. In Plate 16, for example, the subject of the painting behind Lucetta's head implies that it is a Dutch seventeenth-century maritime scene; in Plate 7, on the other hand, the paintings above the weeping Elizabeth-Jane and behind the solicitous Henchard would seem to be ancestral portraits that may have automatically passed in Henchard's hands when he purchased one of the town's most substantial residences. The implications of these pictorial interpolations in the realisations of his scenes cannot have been lost on Hardy as an art-lover for whom every good picture told a story. The pictures-within-pictures complement the pictorial qualities of Hardy's style, including tone and allusion, and reinforce the "verbal genre painting" that had marked Hardy's descriptions since the publication of his first novel, Under The Greenwood Tree, with its overt reference to the pictorial arts in its subtitle, "A Rural Painting of the Dutch School," reflecting what Lloyd Fernando terms Hardy's "Pre-Raphaelite sensibility" (71). Fortunately for Robert Barnes and for Hardy's illustrators generally, the novelist's style was strongly influenced by the visual arts, by the tableau and portrait in particular, so that every Hardy novel affords plenty of opportunity for illustration.
Dalziel, Pamela. "Whatever Happened to Elizabeth-Jane?: Revisioning Gender in The Mayor of Casterbridge." Thomas Hardy Texts and Contexts, ed. Phillip Mallett. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Pp. 64- 86.
Fernando, Lloyd. "Thomas Hardy's Rhetoric of Painting." REL 6 (October 1965): 62-73.
Jackson, Arlene. Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1981.
Weber, Carl J. Hardy of Wessex: His Life and Literary Career. New York and London: Columbia U. P., and Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965.
Last modified 21 April 2008