This lovely poster advertises an exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from December 4 to January 4, 1970. Even though the poster is over fifty years old, the artwork by Will Barnet on this poster still feels fresh and relevant to our lives.
In depicting an ordinary scene from daily life - a woman curled up in bed with her cat and a book - Barnet uses simple lines and an uncluttered design. The background is black, in bold contrast to the white bed linens and the white cat. But it’s the artist’s strategic use of color, with the red bedcover, the blue book and the woman’s blue eyes, that adds a fun pop and draws our attention. Our feeling in viewing this familiar, comfortable scene is one of serenity; we feel happy and calm when we look at it. All is well in the world.
But this poster is not just a pretty picture that makes us happy. It’s quite a bit more complicated and mysterious than that. As with all good art, it asks us to look closely and ask questions.
This woman, all comfy in her bed with her book and her cat, has paused while reading and is holding her book aloft and looking out at something. Her cat is looking in the same direction. What has caused the interruption? It's fun to speculate. She is not smiling as she would if she were welcoming a friend or family member, but she's not frowning either. Perhaps someone is standing at the door - maybe asking where the car keys are or has she seen his socks, the black ones. We like to think that it’s just an ordinary interruption that momentarily diverts her attention from her book. We like to imagine that she answers the question and goes back to her book – back to the part where Mr. Darcy visits Elizabeth at the parsonage. But each viewer will come up with her own explanation.
Will Barnet (1911-2012) was an American artist known for his paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints depicting people and animals in casual scenes of daily life (such as this one) as well as in dreamlike worlds. During his long career, he worked in a wide variety of artistic styles. Critics have noted that the influence of Rene Magritte's Surrealist dreamscapes and Edward Hopper's subdued realist interiors can be seen in his works.