Dr. Levine is a nationally recognized expert in wound care and pressure ulceration. and has published and spoken widely on this topic. He is a Board Member of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP). Dr. Levine's Pocket Guide to Pressure Ulcers co-authored by Elizabeth Ayello RN and published by the New Jersey Hospital Association is in its 4th printing and has sold over 30,000 copies.


Will Barnet, an American artist living in New York City, will turn 100 years old next month.  I had the opportunity to photograph him recently in his home and studio in the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park.  His paintings and drawings are in every major museum in the United States, and he is still making art. 

Experts have studied the mysteries of artistic creativity in old age.  Some artists blossom in their early years then fade away into oblivion, while others reach their peak of creativity in mid life.   Still others begin strong, and maintain their creativity well into old age.  Will Barnet is in the latter group. As life expectancy increases, the number of these artists will only get larger. 

Born in 1911 in Beverly, Massachusetts, he decided to be an artist at age ten.  His subjects include his wife and family, including the family pets.  When the abstract expressionist movement rose, he followed the fashion but later returned to representational figures.  He watched the rise and fall of Pop Art without joining the movement. 

My connection to Mr. Barnet was through the National Arts Club, where I have been a member for eight years.  He lives there, and I saw him on several occasions and it took a while to summon the nerve to ask him for a portrait sitting.  When I called him this past winter to ask for an appointment to photograph him, he responded by saying, “Let me look at my schedule.”  He invited me into his neatly cluttered studio and showed me some recent paintings.  Mr. Barnet recently told the New York Times that he still paints three to four hours per day, despite being unable to stand. 

Creativity is now recognized as a component of healthy aging.  One study has shown that people over 65 who are involved in the arts have fewer doctors visits and take less medication.  The Center on Aging, Health, and the Humanities at George Washington University, founded by Dr. Gene Cohen, has made creativity and aging a major focus.  Arts programs for elders are blossoming across America with the goal of maintaining independence and reducing dependency. 

As I photographed Will Barnet, I was impressed by his intensity and level of concentration.   When I asked to photograph his hand holding a brush, he said, “These hands have been painting for over eighty years.”  As he sat for me I felt completely humbled as I fumbled with my equipment, while he looked so content and serene.  When you look at his hand in the slideshow above, you can see that the brush he holds is very much an extension of his body, reflecting not just a life well lived, but a life that continues to be creative and full. 

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For the National Center for Creative Aging site click here

For a recent book on aging artists:  Lastingness: the Art of Old Age by Nicholas Delbanco

To view more photographic portfolios check out the following links:

Photographing America’s Aging Heroes

Photographing Aging Across America

The Elders of Taquile Island in Peru

A Taste of Ancient Peruvian Medicine


  • Barb Christ
    12/15/2011, 5:53 pm  Reply

    Thank you for posting this story and photographs. I have been a follower of Mr. Barnet’s work since the early seventies. I hope there is still another category of artistic creativity in old age. I look forward to mastering my art form in a new life after retirement.

  • Jason Danely
    05/12/2011, 9:37 am  Reply

    Thank you for posting some of your photos. His art has a timeless quality completely lacking in sentimentality, which I love. What you write about the paintbrush as an extension of the body rings absolutely true. Those hands are masterpieces!

  • 05/06/2011, 2:47 pm  Reply

    I am in absolute awe of Mr. Barnet: his work, his life, his philosophy, his serenity. The way you captured all of these attributes both in the beautiful photos you took and in this brief post is also splendid. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this – what an enriching experience to have this glimpse into Barnet’s world!

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Dr. Jeffrey M. Levine has authored numerous articles on topics related to healthcare of the elderly. These include medical history, prevention and treatment of chronic wounds such as pressure ulcers, elder neglect and abuse, and physical restraints. He has also edited a book on legal and regulatory aspects of nursing homes.