Like Steve Wheeler, Robert Barrell studied at the Arts Students League and the Hans Hofmann School, though he never enrolled officially in Hofmann's classes. Barrell spent much time with Wheeler absorbing Northwest Native American art at the American Museum of Natural History. He eventually painted five murals for the museum as an WPA staff artist

Like other Indian Space painters, Barrell sought to take Cubism to its next stage, combining elements of Surrealism, Cubism and Native Ameican art in vividly original compositions. He exhibited at 57th Street galleries through the 1940s, but in 1948 turned away from abstraction; as he later explained, he "gave up Indian Space to reclaim the image."

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pencil on paper