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Will Barnet papers, circa 1930-2012

Will Barnet papers, circa 1930-2012

Barnet, Will, 1911-2012

Painter, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 32.4 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Will Barnet (1911-2012) was a painter, printmaker, and educator who lived and worked in New York City.


Will Barnet donated his papers in several increments between 1968-2001. Additional material donated 2016 by Elena Barnet, Will Barnet's widow.

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art holds three oral history interviews with Will Barnet, one conducted by Richard Baker, January 20, 1964, one by Paul Cummings, January 15, 1968, and another by Stephen Polcari on April 9, 1993. Also found are two additional related collections, a transcript of an interview by Louis Newman with Molly Barnes and Will Barnet, and Peter Barnet's research material on Will Barnet. Syracuse University holds additional papers of Will Barnet.


Funding for the preservation and transfer of motion picture film provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee. Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Material on reels N68-22, N69-126, and N70-48 was lent for microfilming. Originals returned to Barnet after microfilming.

Scope and Contents

The papers of painter, printmaker, and educator Will Barnet measure 11.1 linear feet and date from 1938 to 2001. Found within the papers are biographical material, including numerous recorded interviews of Barnet; personal and professional correspondence; writings and lectures, many of which exist only as audio and video recordings; financial records; printed material, including audio and video documentaries; artwork; and photographs of Barnet, his family and friends, and his work.

Biographical materials consist of appointment and address books, curriculum vitae, a fellowship application, awards ceremony documentation, and numerous recorded interviews, including a 9 part interview with Kitty Gellhorn conducted over the course of two years. Only 6 of the 24 interviews have transcripts and most are found only on original audio and video recordings with no duplicate access copies.

Correspondence is primarily with Barnet's family, friends, fellow artists, and business associates discussing personal relationships, teaching and lecturing appointments, gallery sales, and exhibitions. Correspondents of note include Cameron Booth, Henry Pearson, Angelo Savelli, Harry Sternberg, Jon Von Wicht, Esther Robles Gallery, and the Waddell Gallery (formerly Grippi and Waddell).

Writings by Barnet consist of 7 essays, 45 teaching lectures, 3 notebooks, and 4 speeches. Many of the lectures and 3 of the 4 speeches exist only as audio and video recordings for which there are no transcripts or duplicate access copies. The bulk of writings by others are biographical essays and memoirs of Barnet, including a copy of Peter Barnet's dissertation, "Will Barnet: Artist and Teacher." The series also includes 4 exhibition guest registers.

Personal business records include sales and teaching contracts, gift acknowledgements, and price lists.

Printed material includes auction catalogs, clippings, audio recordings, video documentaries, exhibition announcements and catalogs, newsletters, press releases, programs, and reproductions of artwork. Video documentaries of note include, "Artist's Eye" and "Lasting Impressions," to both of which Barnet contributed interviews.

Photographic materials document people, artwork, exhibition installations, and works of art. There are early photos of Barnet teaching at the Art League, as well as photos of Barnet in his studio and with friends and family. Views of exhibition installations, award ceremonies, and events mainly document solo shows and Barnet's reception after receiving the National Arts Club's Gold Medal Award.

Artwork consists of ink, pencil, and pen sketches by Will Barnet, and a drawing by Bill Smith.

An addition of 21.3 linear feet donated 2016 includes biographical material, correspondence, Barnet's subject files, interviews with Barnet, exhibition files, photographs of Barnet, printed material, and DVD made as a tribute to Barnet.

Portions of the papers were microfilmed on reels N68-35, N69-46, and 98. The microfilm is available for interlibrary loan but researchers are advised that the microfilm does not reflect the current order of the papers and is incomplete. One 8mm motion picture film of a 1966 exhibition at Hirschl and Adler (Series 1) was transferred onto video recordings (VHS and digital Betacam), which are available for research access at the Archives of American Art's Washington D.C. office. The original reel is not available for playback due to fragility.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

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