Conceived by her son Alex Minott, along with long-time neighbors Jackie McCrea and Lois Licht, Barbara Deighan – Reflections from a Life – 1933-2018, is an intimate look into a lifetime of work by an Arts League community member and an artist who was underappreciated during her time.
The following biography was largely compiled by Alex Minott and adapted by Arts League Executive Director Annette Monnier:
Barbara Deighan was born in 1933 in North Andover, Massachusetts. Having an interest in art since she was young, she went to art school in Boston, at the Massachusetts College of Art, where she met Charles Minott, whom she later married. Her parents were seriously concerned by her decision to major in painting, rather than to pursue art education, which might have been a more practical choice, but she was determined.
Various forms of modernism (mostly some version of expressionism) were apparently popular during her schooling, and by the time she graduated in 1955, abstraction was on the ascendant in the art world. Her own work was influenced by Pierre Bonnard and Eduard Vuillard in particular, whose sensitive and unusual colors and compositions resonated with her ideas and sense of taste.
Barbara Deighan and Charles Minott lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle, settling first in Chapel Hill, then Princeton while Charles continued his studies in Art History. The couple then moved to Italy for two years before settling in West Philadelphia and having two children. Throughout her life, Barbara struggled to remain an artist while supporting her husband through school and his later pursuit of a tenured position in academia. She often put her painting aside from want of encouragement. She felt excluded from Charles’ circle of academic associates, and judged by them.
Barbara kept studying her craft, taking some drawing courses at Penn with instructor Frank Kawasaki during the 1970’s, and some courses in botanical illustration during the 80’s, but it wasn’t until she and Charles separated in 1989 (eventually divorcing) that she began painting again in earnest. She started by taking classes at PAFA, particularly with Lou Sloan, Jimmy Leuders, and Elizabeth Osborne. She produced a number of very beautiful works throughout the ’90s, but basically put down her brushes after that.
Friends and family would urge Barbara to keep working, but she did not particularly see the point if it wasn’t “serious,” by which she meant work destined for the larger art-world context, into which she felt uninvited. The Arts League is honored to host Barbara’s works and hope they can serve as an inspiration to our students to keep working and pursuing their own artistic passions.