Monday, October 7, 2013

Charles E. Barnes (1915-2005)

The men who conquered Fortress Europe and who stormed the beaches of the South Pacific--the men who survived the war and the sixty-eight years since--are in their waning years. We as a nation have honored them with a memorial in Washington, D.C. Our current commander-in-chief has dishonored them by attempting to keep them out, as if a few moveable barriers and a few yards of plastic tape could discourage men who long ago laid waste to world-spanning totalitarian regimes. In support of our veterans, I will write two postings this month, both on artists who drew and painted pictures of military action.

First, Charles E. Barnes, a Brown County artist born three years and a day before the first Armistice Day. Barnes was born in Chicago on November 10, 1915. The 1920 census found him with his family in Chicago. In 1930 and 1940, they were living in Richmond, Indiana. Barnes relocated to Indianapolis, perhaps sometime in the early 1940s. He taught at the Park School (now Park Tudor) in Indianapolis and kept a studio on McLean Place in the city. When war came, he answered his country's call.

In July 1945, after the war in Europe had ended, the Indianapolis Star published three drawings that PFC Charles E. Barnes had made at Monte Cassino the year before. Fighting had raged there throughout early 1944. The Allies bombed the abbey at Monte Cassino in February. One of Barnes' drawings is dated 1944. The other is undated. It's clear, though, that he was there shortly after the Germans finally withdrew in May. In the articles, Barnes was described as "a veteran of the North African and Italian campaigns."

Charles E. Barnes studied at the Herron School of Art, the Santa Monica School of Design, and the School of Modern Photography. Francis Chapin was among his instructors. In his fine art, executed before and after the war, Barnes was an abstract painter. More than fifty universities and museums, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art, held or hold his works. Barnes was art director at Argo Films in New York City and a charter member of the Creative Film Society in Hollywood. For many years he operated the Modern Art Center, later the Charles E. Barnes Art Center, located across from the entrance to Brown County State Park in Nashville, Indiana. Brown County is renowned for its fall color, its art colony, and of course as home to Kin Hubbard's wry observer of human folly, Abe Martin.

Charles Barnes died on March 31, 2005. He was eighty-nine years old.

Drawings made by PFC Charles E. Barnes at Monte Cassino, Italy, 1944, and published in 1945. From the Indianapolis Star, July 15 and 29, 1945.

Indiana artist Charles E. Barnes (1915-2005). From the Indianapolis Star, Oct. 9, 1969.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley


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  2. I found a water color titled "Snow" by Chas. E. Barnes today at a thrift store. Been doing research to see what I could find.