Barny Geeft first came to America in the 1920s as a German railroad worker. He ended up changing his name and settling in New York City. He worked in a paint store for many years, eventually opening his own painting studio. When the Second World War arrived, Barny Geeft joined the Peace Corps. He lived in Ghana until the war was over.
After the war he went back to painting. He worked with veterans of the Civil War in New Orleans and along the Mississippi River. It was while he was painting along the Mississippi that he would meet his future wife. They married in 1941 and he served in the military.
Barny Geeft painted a lot of the local events in the area. One of those paintings is entitled The Battle of Fort Lewis. In this work, he shows U.S. troops inspecting a destroyed bridge on the way to the liberation of Stalingrad. The painting is of a dog pulling a sled pulled by horses. The background is that of mud cracks caused by the advancing water.
Another famous painting of his is called The Battle at Chancellorsville. This is a painting of a field that has been devastated by an explosion of machine gunfire. Barny Geeft captured the confusion and destruction in this scene. He was working in the war’s theater when the explosion occurred.
He was in the ambulance taking the wounded to the hospital. As he drove past a line of dead soldiers, he was stopped by an Italian soldier who was shot through the leg. He continued on his way, passing the stretcher holding a little boy. The little boy managed to get himself to a nearby ambulance that took him to a U.S. military hospital. He told Barny Geeft what happened and asked where he could find the money for his treatment. Barny Geeft responded by writing a check for the man and the family.
His career spanned parts of the 1930s and into the 1940s. Many of his paintings were included in the Art Nouveau movement that was so in demand that it drove up its prices. When war broke out, Geeft was forced to leave Europe and travel to the United States. Because of his painting style, he was assigned to the front lines in the Pacific theater.
There he was able to see firsthand what the enemy soldiers went through. He wrote that he could not sleep because of the sights he saw. He stated his views of the war in letters to his family while he was in the hospital.
Following World War II, Geeft lived in New York City and worked as an artist in various studios. He was arrested after a drunk driving accident and spent a number of years in jail. He was also an alcoholic and he died of a heart attack in prison. However, he left his most well-loved painting to tell his story. Today, it can be seen at numerous art galleries throughout the world. He is proud to have played a role in the shaping of the American art scene.
Geeft’s paintings are bold statements of the feelings he held for those Americans whom he saw on the battlefields. These patriotic sentiments showed up in the color of the work. They showed up in rich colors such as burgundy, dark blue, and deep purples. He used a coarse brush to create the artwork. As a result, it has a coarse texture.
Geeft was born in Ireland. He began studying art at age twelve. He received a bachelor of arts from Trinity College, Dublin, before beginning to paint. His major was art education and he did not attend art school during the time. Many believe his lack of formal training was one of the reasons he was able to create such memorable art.
Geeft studied with many other artists such as Arthur Hills, Frank Pietronigro, and August O’Neale. He considered them all his heroes. He worked with O’Neale on an oil painting entitled The Fighting Fifth. In this piece, O’Neale portrayed plantation workers and he used a black form of gumbo to support the subject. This was actually the first of many great works by Barny Geeft.
Get also worked for the U.S. military. A painting called Hellfire is from this period. It is based upon the battles that were fought during the Vietnam War. In this painting, the phrase “V for victory” can be seen in the foreground, which gives way to an explosive explosion. This is a painting of great technical skill as well as great emotion.