Adelheid (left) and Barry Gealt in their garden. Photo by Lynae Sowinski


This fall the IU Art Museum will present a retrospective of the paintings of Barry Gealt, who retired from IU in 2009 after almost 40 years as a fine-arts professor. Gealt, 70, has spent his working life inventing a visual language in oil paint.

“The show is called ‘Barry Gealt: Embracing Nature,’ which is kind of a pun because he has such an embracing nature,” says Linda Baden, the museum’s associate director for editorial and marketing services and an honorary curator of the exhibit. The show will include three large figure paintings and 32 landscapes.

“I’ve always been an image painter,” explains Gealt. “My paintings border on being abstract, but abstraction in a way that means clarity—not like nonobjective paintings, but having the essence of something.”

About his own formative years and those of other artists of his generation, Gealt says, “We were from a time of epic-ness. Born during World War Two, I started Yale grad school in ’63. Kennedy was murdered, there were race riots, big wars, big paintings, everything was big around us. We were just young kids, but we went to art school and all our teachers painted big and we painted big.”

Gealt’s studio is on the grounds of the 120-acre property near Spencer where he lives with his wife, Adelheid Gealt, an art historian and the director of the IU Art Museum. She gardens, he paints. For years he took his imagery from the glens and waterfalls on the property. Then a few years ago a residency at Giverny, France, led to a side trip to Étretat on the Normandy coast where the ocean captured his imagination and where he painted many seascapes.

Baden says, “The thing that Barry does with landscapes is that he’s a not a traditionalist. He scrapes paint on, he scrapes it off, pours it on, then lets it roll. With a lot of the effects, he’s had to invent tools to express what he wants to express.”

“To be an artist you have to dig deep into what’s important to you,” Gealt says. “Life’s a struggle, a long horizon line, and you often don’t see past it. Right behind the horizon line is change and you can’t be afraid of that.”

“Barry Gealt: Embracing Nature, The Landscape Paintings, 1985-2012” begins October 6 and continues through December 23 at the IU Art Museum.

Video by Lynae Sowinski