About Thomas W. Barrett, Jr.


Thomas Weeks Barrett, Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on September 12, 1902. Barrett left Poughkeepsie to attend the art school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1925 and then moved to New York City, where he  painted and completed designs purchased by Macy's.   After his return to Poughkeepsie in 1929, Barrett lived in the house he grew up in as a child--55 Noxon Street. He formed the Dutchess County Art Association after mounting an exhibit of local artists in the Luckey, Platt and Company auditorium in 1934. In the following years of the Depression, the DCAA continued to hold shows in various shops, at the Hotel Campbell, and at the County Fair. These shows gave artists a direct means of showing and selling their work.

During the 1930's, Thomas Weeks Barrett worked as a muralist for the Treasury Relief Art Project and, later, for the WPA Federal Art Project, completing a set of four fresco panels for Millbrook High School. The subjects of these murals--agriculture and work--fit the artist's senitivity to the human struggle and his idealistic hopes for a better society.

In 1939, Barrett also competed for the task of providing the murals for the Poughkeepsie Post Office. His renderings for the proposed paintings present a dynamism and progressive spirit that was perhaps ahead of its time; the judges, as it turned out, selected the more realistic images by Gerald Foster that we now see in the Post Office.


More than this, Barrett was interested in the social--and the societal--value of art. At DCAA shows, artists and the viewers of art could gather and consider matters of life in this region. As biographer Karal Ann Marling explains, "Dreams of a cultural democracy wherein the artist and his audience could reflect together on their heritage--a true definition of social realism--inspired Barrett's leadership of the Dutchess County Art Association."


ARCHIVE FINDS:  Wallpaper designs by Thomas W. Barrett, Jr.