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Arts & Culture

An Illustrated History

Exhibit Celebrates Artwork of Innovative Feminist Djuna Barnes

By Sala Levin ’10

February Fell from the Ladies Almanack

Photos by Jonathan Thorpe; drawings/paintings courtesy of the Authors League Fund and St. Bride’s Church, as joint executors of the Estate of Djuna Barnes

February Fell, an illustration from Djuna Barnes' experimental book, “The Ladies Almanack,” is one of the pieces on display in “Across the Pane: The Art of Djuna Barnes,” an exhibit on view now through April 3 at the UMD Art Gallery.

With her stylish hairdos, dark lipstick and penchant for chic chapeaux, Djuna Barnes cut a striking figure among the early-20th century modernist, expat set. 

The work of the artist, novelist and journalist was even more arresting—her 1936 novel “Nightwood” was a landmark for its portrayal of lesbianism, and her journalistic feats included having herself force-fed so she could write about the practice, one perpetrated at the time against female suffragists on hunger strikes.

It’s Barnes’ visual work, though, that’s the subject of “Across the Pane: The Art of Djuna Barnes,” an exhibit on view now through April 3 at the UMD Art Gallery as part of a series of programming honoring the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. The exhibit—which heavily borrows from the collection of Barnes’ papers in University Archives—features drawings, book illustrations, paintings and more highlighting her unconventional, slightly macabre style.

“She’s very much part of the modernist literary canon. Her written works are understood as being cool, innovative and modern,” says Abby Eron, an art history Ph.D. candidate who curated the exhibit. “Her visual art is much less paid attention to, so I wanted to think a little more deeply about it.”

Take a look through the gallery below to see some of Barnes’ work.

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Doughboy web

“The Doughboy (Man with Bayonet),” ca. 1917, charcoal and pastel on paper, Barnes Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Courtesy of the Authors League Fund and St. Bride’s Church, as joint executors of the Estate of Djuna Barnes

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