Will Barnet (born May 25, 1911) is an American artist known for his paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints depicting the human figure and animals, both in casual scenes of daily life and in transcendent dreamlike worlds.
Barnet's works, while remaining universal, reference his own personal history complete with images of his wife, his daughter and their family pets. As James Thomas Flexner wrote, Barnet’s work “makes us experience the interplay between the personal and the universal.” While remaining representational, the simple elegance of the figures and their flat surfaces reflect his exploration with abstraction. He was a key figure in the New York movement called Indian Space Painting, artists who based their abstract and semi-abstract work on Native American art. For many years he pursued abstraction in painting, then a fashionable trend in the USA. His later work returned to figurative painting. He is probably best known for his enigmatic portraits of family, made from the 1970s onwards, notable the Silent Seasons series. However, his earlier works maintain an edginess and brooding contemplation that is even more remarkable when compared with the more placid and pretty works which followed his second marriage.
While in State College, Pa I saw a painting by Will Barnett in the campus museum. I was struck by the simplicity and moodiness that the artist depicted with very minimal shapes and colors. In this painting I am drawn to its similarity to a traditional Japanese woodblock, with it’s simplicity of design, color and space, it appears very peaceful and stable.