Barbara Madsen || Profile


The gifted artist Barbara Jean Madsen passed quietly from this world at the age of 90, on October 24, 2020, with her husband, the sculptor Roy Paul Madsen, at her side. 


Barbara was born July 8, 1930 in Carlinville, Illinois to Roy B. Tozier and Alice Mae Morse Tozier, and grew up with a lively and beloved older sister named Joan (the late Joan Tozier Brown).


Barbara was the imaginative child of an academic family and, during her youth, moved among her father's teaching assignments, which included stops in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Winnipeg, Canada.

Barbara J. Madsen, "Smaug Descends," from Tolkein's The Hobbit 


She spent many of her teen years in Elmhurst, Illinois, eventually attending York High School, where her father, "Doc Tozier," served as the principal. At York, Barbie became well known and liked for her vivacious social side and her artistic talents. She studied classical violin for many years, and became very involved in student theater, assuming the starring role in York's stage production of "The Barretts of Wimpole Street." After the show's resounding success, Barbara seriously considered a professional acting career. She also brought her remarkable physical dynamism to the school's jazz dance company. 


Heading off after York to the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana, Barbara majored in fine art, became a top all-around student, and fell in love with Roy, her steadfast life partner of nearly 70 years.


Barbara Jean Madsen, "The Spirit Cloud"

The young pair married and moved to Los Angeles so that Roy could begin graduate school in Film at the University of Southern California. They started married life at a modest stucco bungalow on South Street, in the Glendale neighbourhood, later moving east to Syracuse, New York, for Roy's first professorial teaching assignment.


Roy and Barbara raised three children, Sally Dawn Madsen, Mark Hunter Madsen, and Kristie Sue Madsen. Their upbringing was guided closely by Barbara's attentive care, unfailing good instincts as a parent, love of adventure and the outdoors, and buoyant positivity toward life in general.


Barbara J. Madsen, "Brother's Keeper"

After the children were off to college, Barbara returned to focus on her career as a fine painter. Her subjects often sensitively displayed a profound empathy for others, especially for American Blacks, careworn shopkeepers, friendless kids, down-and-out  homeless persons, and struggling outsiders of all kinds. 


Barbara J. Madsen, "Tijuana Side Street"


Following the glorious and challenging year that Barbara spent accompanying Roy on his distinguished speaking tour to American consulates around the globe, Barbara returned to America, intent upon becoming a book illustrator, a passion she had had  ever since she was a young girl.  Barbara poured her skill and talent into a charming series to illustrate J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit, and her watercolor drawings became part of the portfolio she brought with her when visiting top publishing houses in New York.  She was told again and again that her talent would find work with them, but that first she would have to relocate to the New York City area.

Since Barbara and Roy loved San Diego and considered it their permanent home, she decided against pursuing an illustration career in the East. She chose instead to deepen her painting accomplishments, while she also tried her hand at writing and illustrating children's books and drafting several novels for young adults. Again, in her literary subjects, Barbara's deep feeling for the struggles of others gave her work power and authenticity, as well as pathos.


Meanwhile, Barbara showed her paintings regularly in group shows across Southern California.  Barbara's accomplishments as a painter were recognized and respected by the fine artists in her circle, and she received the top painting prize at a major juried exhibition.

Barbara J. Madsen, "The Tinder Box" 


As one of her daughters put it aptly, Barbara "was one of the great ladies," radiating a striking inner grace that many who met or knew her recognized and cherished about her immediately. She lived out her creative life as an extremely capable art-maker who saw the importance of lifting others up with sensitivity. She brought a rare quality of open kindness toward all people, and always a touching modesty and straightforwardness about herself. “I was lucky enough to have known her as my mother," the daughter, Kristie, added, "but also to know her as my heroine.”


Throughout her life, Barbara displayed a deep responsiveness to music of all kinds.  She had a lovely singing voice, and spent many happy hours, especially over her final decade, singing favorite songs along with friends and caregivers: her fundamental nature was a joyful one.


Barbara Madsen, "The Doctor and Mr. Hyde"


A series of small strokes over the years had made it increasingly difficult for Barbara to express herself verbally, something that she managed around with grace and resilient good humor.  During her last weeks, however, when she had simply stopped eating and set her courageous sail toward our unknown horizon, Barbara made a point of telling everyone she encountered - her caregivers, friends, family, and even surprised physicians - the same thing, with a clear voice and a direct smile: “You are beautiful, and I love you.”


And so we were, to her. And so she was, to us.


Barbara J. Madsen, "Cuyamaca Daybreak"