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Paul E. Barr, North Dakota Artist

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Oil painting by Paul Barr

On this date in 1932, it was announced that paintings of North Dakota artist Paul E. Barr would be exhibited at Memorial Hall at the state Capitol. The exhibit would include 31 scenes of the North Dakota Badlands. Although not born in North Dakota, Barr became one of the state’s foremost artists.

Paul Everett Barr was born on November 25, 1892, in Tipton County, Indiana. He demonstrated his artistic talent at an early age. His first exhibit was at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition when he was only eleven years old. He grew up in Indiana, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Art. He studied in Europe, earning yet another art degree from the University of Paris. He also studied at the Sorbonne.

When Barr returned to the United States, he traveled throughout the country and painted everywhere he went. He became enchanted with the North Dakota Badlands, painting extensively there before settling in Grand Forks.

He served as head of the University of North Dakota Art Department for 25 years. In 1947 he was added to the Honor Roll of the American Artists Professional League.

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Barr’s work was shown throughout the country. He participated in major exhibits, including at galleries in New York, Washington, and Chicago. For nine years he served as the North Dakota state chairman for American Art Week.

Barr had married Margaret Libby, whose father headed the UND History Department. The couple had a son and a daughter. Margaret spent twenty years as an associate professor of Business and Vocational Education at UND, and she assisted her husband with a book titled North Dakota Artists. Paul Barr had spent many years researching the book, published in 1954, which unfortunately came after Paul's death. He had suffered a stroke and died at age 61 in December of 1953. The book remains a valuable resource for researching the history of art in North Dakota.

His wife Margaret was an author in her own right, co-authoring University of North Dakota Pottery: the Cable Years with her son Robert and UND art professor Donald Miller. In 1987 she was presented with the Elwyn B. Robinson award for the preservation of North Dakota history.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Bismarck Historical Society. “It Happened in Bismarck.” Accessed 11/27/2021.

University of North Dakota. “Department of Special Collections Finding Aids: Paul E. Barr.” Accessed 11/27/2021.

University of North Dakota. “Department of Special Collections Finding Aids: Libby Family Papers. Accessed 11/27/2021.

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