During the 1980's, Barnes had now settled into a steady routine of painting, exhibiting, and teaching. He also found his family life, which by now had become stable, immensely rewarding.
Barnes now in his early 50's, had become established in both the fields of painting and teaching. He enjoyed teaching and tried to pass along in his teaching style, the generosity and kindness he had experienced from Duchamp during his fledgling days as an artist in New York. His reputation as an "artists' artist" and professor brought many students to Indiana University, especially graduate students from many reputable painting schools.
In 1981, Barnes was awarded The Childe Hassam purchase prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1982 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
New York, November 12th, 1985, began a year long traveling retrospective of Barnes' works from 1956-1984. The exhibition opened on the east coast, found it's way through the midwest and closed on October 1986 in Miami, Florida garnering much acclaim. As the exhibition wound down Barnes left on sabbatical to his home in Italy, for a year. The house was close to being completely restored, and now was habitable enough to bring his young family to stay through a winter.
He produced a series of watercolors for an exhibition in 1989, many of which reflected his experiences from his sabbatical in Umbria.The exhibition was shown in Chicago at what had now become the Struve Gallery, since Frumkin, who had sold the gallery to Bill Struve, was slowly retiring from the art market. After 19 solo exhibitions with Frumkin within a 25 year time period Barnes would no longer exhibit with Frumkin, thus ending their professional relationship.