Stanley Barnes

Stanley Barnes’ talent as a painter was recognised quickly at the Jamaica School of Art, but, as painting tutor Kofi Kayiga noted in his term report, his progress was marred by a tendency to be mischevious and an arrogance that made him unwilling to conform or comply with regular attendence at classes. His dismissive approach to formal tuition seemed not to harm his artistic development. Even before Stanley Barnes had graduated his work was shown in a travelling exhibition of Jamaican art to the United States and Canada, giving credence to his precocious skills.

After graduation, Stanley Barnes proved that he was ready to take on the Jamaican art world. As Petrona Morrison of the National Gallery was to later record . “In the following years he consistently demonstrated a committment to his art, exhibiting extensively in group shows and national exhibitions, establishing himself as a serious artist“. For all his machismo, Stanley Barnes was a nurturer evidenced by his close relationship with his son, his dedication to teaching, his meticulous approach to restoration as the National Gallery’s Conservator and his thorough attention to detail in his own work. It is therefore not surprising that the 'Mother and Child' was a recurring theme in his paintings that tended to be small and exquisitely rendered. Barnes favoured Cubism, but his interest in European modern styles was tempered by explorations of Caribbean light, colour and forms and a strong sense of nationalism that dictated his subject matter.

Jamaican infuences on his work came from black nationalist artists like Osmond Watson and also from intuitives like Woody Josephs whose sculptures inspired anguished heads and abstract forms not unlike Caribbean versions of Picasso’s Guernica. But, despite his interest in mural painting Stanley Barnes’ oeuvre never achieved the scale of the Mexican muralists that he admired. His untimely death means that we can never guage fully the extent of his talent and desire.