barkley l. hendricks, pioneer of black portraiture, dead at 72

April 19, 2017

As reported by Artnet, legendary painter Barkley L. Hendricks, died early Tuesday morning of natural causes. The artist dedicated most of his life to portraits with Black subjects, his enormous influence reshaping the painting landscape for decades to come.

Jack Shainman, the painter’s gallery, released a statement confirming his death:

We have had the great honor of working with Barkley since 2005. He was a situational painter, documenting the world around him in vivid and highly detailed paintings that capture the distinctive personalities of his subjects. He 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.

Inspired by jazz culture (the painter was known to frequent various jazz clubs), Hendricks made a name for himself with life-size paintings noted for their vibrance. His legacy resonates in the work of contemporary artists like Amy Sherald Kehinde Wiley, who are also known for their bold portraiture of Black subjects.

Born in 1945 in Philadelphia and receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in photography from Yale University, Hendricks was included in the 1994 Whitney Museum exhibition “Black Male”, and displayed in a retrospective curated by Trevor Schoonmaker at the Nasher Museum of Art in 2008. In recent years, he was awarded 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. Hendricks was Professor Emeritus of Studio Art at Connecticut College.

As Huey Copeland wrote 2009, Hendricks “not only valorized blackness but gave rise to emphatic displays of a new, self-conscious ‘to-be-looked-at-ness.’”

Check out some of his work below!:

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