Will Barnet (1911-2012, American) born in Beverly, Massachusetts the son of a Russian immigrant, became interested in art at a very young age. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and in 1930 studied at the Art Students’ League of New York and eventually became an instructor there. Known for his printmaking, most of his works document his own life including his wife, children and pets, integrating the personal and universal. The flat linear surfaces of his works hint at abstraction. His first works can be categorized as social realism because he set out to depict the struggles of those most affected by The Depression. In the 1940’s, Barnet became a key artist in the Indian Space Painting movement which was based on the abstract art of Native Americans and was also influenced by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell. This was a natural move since Barnet had always been influenced by Picasso. However, by the 1960’s Barnet reverted back to his original style.
In his print Woman Reading, 1970, his wife Elena poses with their cat Madame Butterfly. Other of Barnet’s works include his cat Minou. Barnet is said to have dismissed any visitor to his studio if his feline did not approve of him/her. Clearly, Barnet was a cat lover.
In 2012, Barnet was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, a crowning achievement to be placed amongst his numerous other awards.
Barnet is quoted as saying, “At the age of 10 or 12, I discovered that being an artist would give me an ability to create something which would live on after death.” He died at 101.