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Thursday, December 14, 2017

At 99, prolific New York artist still brings life to canvas

Will Barnet relaxes at his table in his studio. He still paints daily for three to four hours. At 99 and still painting, New York artist Will Barnet is a national treasure having influenced generations of artists. Will Barnet relaxes at his table in his studio. He still paints daily for three to four hours. At 99 and still painting, New York artist Will Barnet is a national treasure having influenced generations of artists. Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger

Will Barnet, who turns 100 in May, hurt his leg in a fall some time ago and nowadays does his "walking" in a wheeled office chair.

Every month or so, his son, Peter, now 72 and head of the painting department at Montclair State University, brings Dad to the Metropolitan or another big museum and pushes him through the galleries in his wheelchair.

Of course, Barnet loves art. He was a teacher at the Art Students League for 45 years and has been a well-known painter and printmaker for over 70 years, with an encyclopedic knowledge of American art and artists.

But even at his advanced age, Barnet is more than just an enthusiast. As shown in his "Centennial Celebration" — an exhibit of 10 paintings from the past year currently on display at the Montclair Art Museum — Barnet is still bringing the canvas to life himself.

"When I have an idea I go investigate it," Barnet says under the wall-sized window of his studio at the National Arts Club, where he has lived for 35 years. "I had been casting around for an animal to replace the cats in my work, and I thought I might try crows."

He’d gone to a crow hospital, where injured crows are nursed back to health, in order to study them. "Did you know Maine crows are different from other crows? They are. They have longer legs, and more streamlined bodies."

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