About This Exhibition

Will Barnet: Timeless Visions features seven works by one of America’s most evocative and haunting artists. Drawn from Barnet’s home life and often featuring his wife and daughter as models, Barnet’s prints and paintings are quiet and personal but also powerfully transcendent. In each, Barnet depicts what he knows intimately–his wife, his daughter, family pets, the woods and coast of Maine–and uses it to explore such timeless themes as love, intimacy, solitude, and death.

Two people playing a game of chess; a young woman (Barnet's daughter, Ona) with long black hair at left, her chin resting in her left hand and concentrating on the move of her opponent; other player at right not visible except for the extended hand; window behind table with view of a bare tree; black cat on rail of window and gazing out at viewer. Chess Game pictures Barnet’s daughter, Ona, in the New York City brownstone the family began renting in the late 1960s. Barnet was fascinated by the 1901 building and used it as the setting for many of his prints and paintings during this period. The artist was particularly interested in the home’s original woodwork—slanting floors, old staircases, bannisters, windows, and doorways. In both his figural and abstract work, Barnet had always juxtaposed strong verticals with horizontals and curves with right angles. His home’s architecture provided new ways to experiment with these elements. Ona, silhouetted against the right angles of the window frame, leans contemplatively against the table with her face cupped in her hand. Her chess partner’s whole body is not visible—only his arm stretches across the table. The lack of the other player’s presence removes any sense of easy, relaxed playfulness from the work. Instead, Chess Game becomes a meditation on choice and chance.

Will Barnet, Chess Game, 1973. Oil on canvas, 43 1/4 x 33 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Friends of the Wichita Art Museum