Robert L. Barnum: Sweeping Regionalism

by Matt Forcey


Robert Barnum carries a national reputation in the world of modern art.  His style is one of sweeping motion in the tradition of “regionalism,” a movement that grew in the U.S. from the early 1900s to World War II. His preferred medium is watercolor; however, also works in oil and sculpts in metal. 

As an associate professor of Fine Arts at Ferris State University in Michigan, Barnum has been instrumental in an aesthetic renaissance that has rejuvenated the school’s main campus.  Robert’s been a member of the Ferris faculty since 1989, arriving in Big Rapids after a five-year career at Columbia College in Chicago. 

A competitor in juried competitions and exhibitions throughout the United States, Barnum’s work is a part of the collections of Lincoln National Corporation, Idaho State Bank,  Illinois State Permanent Collection and Veterans Memorial Library.  Robert painting have also been featured in numerous publications including The Newleader, The Creative Artist, and American Artist magazine.

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About the Artist, by the Artist:

I had the good fortune of growing up in typical middle-class America. Our family was in the construction business. Working summers, weekends, and school holidays in this blue-collar, male-dominated environment offered me a unique education. I was amazed at how fast these common, everyday Joes could change the face of the earth with enough muscle and equipment.

My interests and goals for the last 10 to 15 years have been quite simple. My goal is documentation. Not the kind of realistic, stop-action, image a journalistic photographer might seek, but nevertheless a form of documentation.

I simplify what I paint, reducing everything to its most graphic and simple form and color. I’m not interested in portraiture; I try to move away from faces in the sort of content that facial expressions might create, instead delivering general information that’s more animated and really deals with the whole figure as a moving force.


4 Responses to “Robert L. Barnum: Sweeping Regionalism”

  1. Wow. These are incredible. Thanks for sharing these, or I never would have known about Barnum.


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