Will Barnet Biography

Will Barnet




Printmaker Will Barnet was born in Massachusetts in 1911. His prolific artistic career spanned 80 years and an extensive variety of styles. Barnet's education began at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, from 1928 to 1930. He went on to join the Art Students League in New York, where he focused on printmaking. He taught briefly at Cornell, Yale, Cooper Union, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Museum School, Boston. In 1934, he became the printer for the League, and from 1945 to 1980 he was Instructor of Painting at the League.

He is best known for his abstract images that retain a classical realist tone, and was a key figure in the New York art movement known as Indian Space Painting

Since his first one-man exhibition at New York's Eighth Street Playhouse in 1935, and the Hudson Walker Gallery in 1938, Will Barnet achieved recognition as an independent, highly dedicated painter-printmaker who pursued his own vision, rooted in personal experience and classical aesthetic concepts, ignoring the vagaries of the art world. This emphasis upon Barnet's personal direction is often referred to as the abstract body of work that postdated the artist's figurative Social Realist prints and paintings of the 1930s, inspired by Barnet's appreciation of Giotto, Vermeer, Daumier, and Orozco. During the rise of Abstract Expressionism in the late 40's and 50's, Barnet developed what he called a "clear-edge" abstract geometric style that formed the foundation for his later figure and portrait painting. He especially found inspiration in the Gallatin Collection where Cubist works by Picasso and Gris reinforced Barnet's "love of purity and geometry in painting, the beauty of a flat surface, a cohesive quality of structure and clear forms." Also important to Barnet was his learned appreciation of Byzantine, African, Asian, Oceanic, and Native American art.

Will Barnet died on November 13, 2012.

Studied: BMFA Sch., with Philip Hale, 1927-30; ASL, with Charles Locke, 1930-33; Harry Wickey. Exhibited: WMAA, 1941, 1952 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965; Phila. Print Club, 1942 (prize), 1945 (prize); CI, 1944, 1945; Corcoran Gal, 1945-63 (third prize & purchase prize, 1961); VMFA, 1944; PAFA, 1947-68 (Walter Lippincott Prize, 1968); NAD, 1977 (Benjamin Altman first prize); Univ. Iowa, 1945, 1946; AIC; Corcoran Biennial, 1961 (bronze med., third prize); Walker Gal., 1938 (solo); Gal. St. Etienne, 1943 (solo); Schaefer Gal., 1946 (solo); Inst. Contemporary Art, Boston; MoMA; Univ. Calif., 1968; Univ. Illinois, 1969; Assoc. Am. Artists, 1972 (retrospective); New York City WPA Art Exhib., Parsons School Design, 1977. Member: Phila. Print Club; Am. Artists Congress; Am. Abstract Artists; Federation Modern Painters & Sculptors; Soc. Am. Graphic Artists; ASL (life member); Century Assoc.; NAD; Royal Soc. Arts, England Work: BMFA; WMAA; MMA; LOC; PMG; PMA; CI; SAM; Honolulu Acad. Art; Fogg Mus. Art; CMA; CGA; Guggenheim Mus.; PAFA Comments: A WPA artist during the 1930s. He was active in Provincetown, MA, 1956-58. Teaching: ASL.

Sources: WW73; Baigell, Dictionary; New York City WPA Art, 5 (w/repros.); Provincetown Painters, 213 www.askart.com Portland Museum of Art; http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/2aa/2aa233.htm "Will Barnet, Works of Six Decades" American Art Review, June-July 1994