It’s hard not to name-drop when talking about Barbara Ernst Prey and her work as a watercolor artist. Born in Manhasset, Prey has fond memories of sailing on Manhasset Bay. Now living in Oyster Bay, she is inspired by its working waterfront and rustic old barns.
Although her name is not quite a household word, Prey’s watercolors are so admired in prestigious private, corporate and museum collections, the New Yorker postulated that she “may be the most widely viewed painter in the world.”
Influenced by Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, Prey was 17 when she participated in a juried show at the Nassau County Museum of Art and sold her first watercolor – to Governor Hugh Carey. Her paintings currently hang on notable walls from the American Embassies in Oslo, Prague and Belarus, to the White House’s permanent collection. Prey’s works have also been commissioned by NASA, putting her in company with the likes of Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. Over 1.5 million people received the Christmas card she was asked to do for the Bush family in 2003.
Prey lives with her husband, a Presbyterian minister, and their two very artistic children. The entire family was especially proud when she was chosen to first create a painting of the International Space Station, and then asked to do a memorial painting in honor of the seven astronauts who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
“I’m currently working on painting the X-43, the fastest moving aircraft in the world, flying at ten times the speed of sound,” Prey says. “Working for NASA is such a cool thing because I learn so much talking to scientists and engineers. It’s fascinating and constantly expands my world.”
After lecturing on different continents and having her paintings exhibited all over the world, what’s next? “After painting for 33 years,” Prey says, “you come to a point where you hopefully are challenged in different directions. I think I’d just like to go deeper.”