Barbara Osterman



Acclaimed watercolor artist Barbara Floyd Osterman, 97, left this earth peacefully on June 7, 2023 surrounded by the love of her family. She was “ready to go” and did so in her own way with comforting care from hospice.

Barbara grew up in suburban Philadelphia, and as an adult lived in Bucks County, PA and Lambertville and Princeton, NJ. In her senior years she resided at Pennswood Village in Newtown, PA.

As a child Barbara was encouraged to develop her demonstrated sensitivity to visual art. Later, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts while simultaneously working as a part time illustrator for the department stores Gimbels and Strawbridge and Clothier. Marriage to her childhood friend, John Osterman, paused her formal art studies. She then began painting realistic Bucks County landscapes and accepting assignments for magazine illustrations. In the 50’s she moved her growing family to a small run-down farm where her boys could play outside freely and creatively while she simultaneously nurtured her calling to paint. A small barn made an ideal studio once a stone wall was converted into a window to allow in the hallowed north light.

Over the years Barbara’s painting focused less on subject matter and more on brush strokes and evoking emotion. She studied with accomplished artists and was awarded many prizes in juried shows such as The American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society, and the National Society of Women Artists. Over the course of her career her work appeared in numerous galleries, museums, and in seven books on art.

A perennial self-motivated and inner-directed learner, Barbara also began teaching locally (“to teach is to learn,” she believed) and organized national and international workshops that focused on her interests (for example, light in Greece, distance in Switzerland, observing small details in Maine). She also continued her formal education, earning both a BA and MA. In 1985 the Pennsylvania Art Education Association honored her as Outstanding Art Educator.

Barbara’s second husband, Hassler Whitney, a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, exposed her to math and physics. The result was a new perspective that seeped into her work when she began painting “energy fields.” In subsequent decades Barbara’s thinking moved her work into depictions of “pure space,” echoing the physics concept that particles come together to create a whole.

Barbara’s devotion to her art is rivaled only by her love for her family. She is survived by three sons: Jeffrey (Gail) of Pleasantville, NY; Mark (France) of Rochester, NY; and Dana (Jane) of Washington Crossing, PA. She is predeceased by her second son, Andrew (Wendy) of Chestertown, MD. She also has seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. In her final note to her family she said, “I will always be with you, for that’s what love is — a connection which is spiritual.”

A service will be held on Saturday, July 15 at 3:00 at Pennswood Village. Family and friends can honor her life, share memories, and understand her deep-rooted belief that “no one dies, we simply rearrange the molecules.”