8. Barrett authored an unpublished book on the history of art.
“Well, I think of me being a painter eventually,” Barrett said in a 1971 Melody Maker interview. In contrast to his limited musical output, Barrett was a prolific visual artist for the remainder of his life, finishing his final canvas just days before he died. “I’ve seen various different styles of work,” brother Ian Barrett told author Julian Palacios. “He’s been interested in geometric patterns and repeated shapes you might see on tiles or weaving. I’ve seen abstracts in oils, naturalistic watercolors and woodblock work.” In a characteristically self-immolating process, Barrett photographed his completed works before burning the canvases.
Barrett’s interest in art also extended into the academic. “He used to take himself up to London on the train and visit art galleries so this whole recluse thing is inaccurate,” his brother asserts. The Tate Gallery was a particular favorite, as well as the National and British Museums.
Pages of art-history notes were found in his personal effects after his death, and Breen claims that he penned an entire book on the subject. “He has written more than a hundred pages, typed on both sides, going back to drawings in caves and through all periods, up to our days, century after century,” she told Palacios. Using the textbook Gardener’s Art Through the Ages as his primary source, he compiled “complicated details, one endless list of names and dates taken from other books. There is little of him in it, some comments here and there.” Like the rest of the projects he undertook during this period, the manuscript was strictly for his own enjoyment and never intended to be published.
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