Ursula Barnes was born in Germany, but moved to San Francisco when she was about twenty years old. Some of her colorful history has been uncovered over many years, and reveals her to have been a dancer on the New York stage, the wife of an itinerant evangelist, a Hollywood actress, a parlor maid in Chicago, and finally a pastry cook in San Francisco.
It seems that only 30 or so paintings were ever completed. She never found an audience for her art during her lifetime. Few knew of her paintings; even her family was unaware of her talent. Barnes’ canvases were found in 1958, at the time of her death, by the San Francisco County coroner.
Barnes’ painting, “Cat and a Ball on the Waterfall” was the inspiration, and the title, of an exhibit in 1986 at the Oakland Museum that surveyed 200 years of California folk painting and sculpture. In addition to the show at the Oakland Museum, only two other exhibitions of the work were ever presented, at now closed San Francisco galleries, in 1959 and 1961.
Barnes’ paintings are filled with melodrama. Fanciful costumed characters prance across her large canvasses. An occasional portrait, animal, or landscape peppers the collection. Much of the works are multi-faceted, energetic combinations of imagery — reminiscent of her colorful life.
[ View works by Ursula Barnes — prices range from $7,000 to $9,500 ]