Esprit Barthet is known as one of Maltas most versatile artists, for he is known to have experimented in different genres, ranging from portraiture, still-life and nudes to abstract painting. He began his artistic practice at the tender age of six or seven years old and furthered his studies in 1932 at the Malta Government School of Art, where he studied under Robert and Edward Caruana Dingli. In addition to this, he also began to attend the nude classes organised and led by Josef Kalleya in 1936, which expanded his artistic practice in the style of nude figure drawing. After developing on the local scale, Barthet, much like his peers, chose to venture beyond the shores of Malta and gain an experience in the international context.
In 1938, he travelled to Rome to study at the Regia Accademia di Belle Arti under the tutorship of Carlo Siviero, but returned to Malta at the onset of World War II. During this time, he settled down in Malta and started a family with his wife Therese Borg, whom he married in 1944. In 1957, he began a formal career in the artistic sector, when he took on the position of Art teacher in the Education Department. Two years later, in 1959, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Bath Academy of Art, and thus relocated to the UK to further his studies. Upon his return to Malta in 1961, Barthet was appointed as a teacher at the Malta Government School of Art, where he taught until 1979.
Essentially, the experience which Barthet gained overseas largely developed his artistic style into one which reflected the international context but was unique in Malta at the time. Through a play of lines, shapes, colours, and the absence of perspective, Barthet’s style echoes that of Georges Braque (1882-1963) and Paul Klee (1879-1940). Whilst his works stylistically reflect such artists, Barthet executes them in a manner which is cohesively his own and places the Maltese urban landscape at the forefront. It is with this unique style and Barthet’s significant artistic contribution to Malta, that he was awarded numerous accolades including the Cavaliere al Merito della Repubblica Italiana and a Knight of the Order of St John. In 1994 he also received the National Order of Merit. In 1982, his self-portrait was also included at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, thus cementing Barthet’s admirable status as an artist of a high calibre.