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Will Barnet papers, 1897

Biographical Note

Will Barnet (1911-2012) was a painter, printmaker, and educator who lived and worked in New York City.
Barnet was born in Beverly, Massachusetts to Noah and Sarahdina Barnet. After showing an early interest and affinity for art, he attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1931, he received a scholarship to attend the Art Students League where he studied with Stuart Davis and began building his printmaking techniques. In 1935, he was appointed the League's official printer, and was given his first teaching position there the following year. In 1938, working in the style of social realism, he held his first gallery show at the Hudson Walker Gallery in Manhattan. That same year, Barnet married Mary Sinclair, with whom he had three sons.
In the 1940s and 50s, Barnet began to move away from realism and started painting domestic familial subjects in geometric abstract styles, a move influenced by Native American and modern European art. By 1953, he had divorced and was remarried to Elena Ciurlys, with whom he had a daughter. Elena and his daughter were the subject of many of his representational, dimensionally flat paintings in the 1960s and 70s. During the 60s, Barnet also returned to large scale abstract art, and moved back and forth between styles throughout the rest of his career into the 2000s.
As an educator, Barnet taught graphic arts, printmaking, composition, and painting courses at the League from 1936 to 1980, and also taught courses Cooper Union, Yale, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He received numerous awards, including the first Artist's Lifetime Achievement Award given on the National Academy of Design's 175th anniversary, the College Art Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2011 National Medal of Arts.
Will Barnet died in his home in Manhattan, New York on November 13, 2012.