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Barkley L. Hendricks: Celebrated Contemporary Painter, Photographer and Pioneer of Black Portraiture

Photo courtesy of the artist via The Modern Art Notes Podcast
Barkley L. Hendricks, Slick (Self-Portrait), 1977. Collection of the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va.

Barkely L. Hendricks, best known for his eloquent depiction of black culture through life-sized oil paintings, recently passed at the age of 72, two days following his birthday on 18th April 2017. The incredible breadth and depth of his body of work, has often been criticised as being political for mainstream because portraying and celebrating everyday life of black culture in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s was unheard of, much accredited to the underrepresentation of non-white artists in conventional art spaces.

The legacy Barkley Hendricks has left behind is quite profound and has impacted the art world as the absence of his enormous presence is already felt. He has imprinted on the lives of emerging artists of colour, who can relate to the shared experience of being pigeonholed into a linear expression, fighting for their place to express the diverse narrative of what encompasses the complexities of the black experience in America. Challenging the very notion of what is trendy and deemed as relevant, was a concept Barkley Hendricks often danced with.

Photo courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York 
Barkley L. Hendricks, Lawdy Mama, 1969

Skillfully, and seemingly effortlessly, Barkley Hendricks captured the essence of everyday subjects, creating and manifesting bold and vibrant portraitures of his peers, family, friends and ordinary people of colour, simultaneously weaving in influences of fashion and nuances of character that uniquely merged and contributed to American realism. Mr. Hendricks' New York dealer, Jack Shainma, stated "[Barkley Hendricks] was a true artist’s artist, always dedicated to his singular vision...He was a figurative painter when it was trendy and especially when it wasn’t" (via

Notably recognised as an acclaimed Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts alum and degree holder of both a BFA and MFA from Ivy League school, Yale University, Barkley Hendricks served as Professor Emeritus of Studio Art at Connecticut College. "His work is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and included in the permanent collections of New York’s Whitney Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University; Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts; and London’s Tate Modern, among other institutions. He was the recipient of many awards, including the 2016 Rappaport Prize, the President’s Award from the Amistad Center for Art and Culture in 2010, and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in 2008" (via Art Forum).


Click the YouTube video below to watch "Barkley L. Hendricks – 'I Want to Be Memorable' | TateShots"

YouTube video courtesy of Tate.

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