The Art of Frank Barney

Frank Barney’s Downtown Studio (Cayuga Museum Collection)

Frank Barney (1862-1954) was born in Union Springs, NY where he lived until he was ten years old.

In 1872 his family moved to Groton, where he obtained work with a carriage painter who gave him his first oil painting lesson. 

Untitled Landscape (Cayuga Museum Collection)

In 1881, Barney moved to Auburn and worked as a clerk at the Bowman & Sagar Drug Co. on Genesee Street, before opening his own studio in 1887. He began his art career water-coloring portrait photos at Ten Eyck Photo Portraits, but soon returned to oil painting. 

Also in 1887, Barney studied with the Arts Student League in New York City, and later studied under William Merritt Post.

He then returned to Auburn and continued painting scenes from around the Finger Lakes region. 

Frank Barney’s Palette (Cayuga Museum Collection)

Thomas Mott Osborne, noted prison reformer and frequent visitor to Barney’s studio, became increasingly interested in his potential. Osborne offered Barney a loan to cover the cost of studying in Paris, which Barney accepted. 

Barney arrived in Paris in 1895, living with Edward Gohl, another well-known Auburn artist. Barney’s style had been in the style of the Hudson River School, but his time in Paris influenced him to experiment with French Impressionism.

After Paris, Barney returned to Auburn but traveled frequently around the Finger Lakes region and the Northeast to paint.
He participated in the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s, which was created to
provide work relief to artists and established over 100 community art centers in the United States. 

Rather than establishing himself with a major New York gallery, Barney preferred to sell his paintings himself, mostly to buyers
in the Auburn area. His landscapes became prized possessions among those who owned them. As the Daubers Club said in
a 1952 article; “While it is true that there have been many highly talented artists in the history of Auburn none of them has
contributed to the delight of our citizens with so many enjoyable paintings over so long a period of time.