Katherine Barieau was born in 1917 to Swedish immigrants in Baltimore, MD. Barieau was raised in Massachusetts, she attended Wellesley College in the late 1930s, and received a Master of Fine Art degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1953. Barieau shared a studio on Shattuck Avenue with Richard Diebenkorn and Paul Wonner. She became active in both the Bay Area and New York art scenes, which included exhibiting her work at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and participating in the Oakland Museum’s art rental program. Barieau’s painting style during this time can be classified as ambient abstraction, in which references to reality appear as reflections of light and color. Barieau lived and worked in El Cerrito, California during the latter part of her career, and taught at art schools throughout the Bay Area. Barieau’s work is held in private and public collections, including the Crocker Art Museum.