Barton studied at the College of Fine Arts of the University of New South Wales, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1993. She was later employed at the College as a lecturer. She has held numerous solo exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne since her first in 1995.

Her solo exhibitions include: The Nightingale and the Rose, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne, Australia (2016); the highway is a disco, ARNDT, Singapore (2015); Electro Orchid, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2014); The Nightingale and the Rose, Heide Museum of Modern Art (2012); the stars eat your body, Kaliman Gallery, Sydney (2009); the whole of everything, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne (2008) and thank you for loving me, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne (2005).

On 7 March 2008, it was announced that Barton had won the 2008 Archibald Prize for portraiture, for You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella, a self-portrait with her two children. Barton said of the portrait: "This painting celebrates the love I have for my two children and how my relationship with them has radically informed and indeed transformed my understanding of who I am".[8] In 2013, she won the Archibald Prize for her portrait of actor Hugo Weaving. Of portraiture generally, she says: "I really value the discipline" that it brings.

She was also an Archibald Prize finalist in 2008, 2013 and 2018. She is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney.

Del Kathryn Barton has participated in group exhibitions that include: Like-ness, Albertz Benda, New York, USA (2016); Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2014); Dark Heart, Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art, Adelaide (2014); Theatre of the World, Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2012); Lightness and Gravity, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland (2012); Freehand: Recent Australia Drawing, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2010/11); 2009 Wynne Prize for Landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2009); Half a World Away: Drawings from Glasgow, Sao Paulo and Sydney, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, New York (2002).

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