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Hendricks, Barkley, 1986 - 1987

 Item — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

Painter Barkley Hendricks delivered 2 lectures to the Black Experience in the Arts course. The first occurring on 11/4/1986 (2015-0002/RR38) and the 2nd happening on 11/17/1987 (2015-0002/RR39). Barkley L. Hendricks (April 16, 1945 – April 18, 2017) was a contemporary American painter who made pioneering contributions to Black portraiture and conceptualism. While he worked in a variety of media and genres throughout his career (from photography to landscape painting), Hendricks' best known work took the form of life-sized painted oil portraits of Black Americans.


  • 1986 - 1987

Conditions Governing Access

Links to digitized content are included in the finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

Barkley Leonnard Hendricks was born on April 16, 1945 in the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Tioga. His parents moved to Philadelphia from Halifax County, Virginia during the Great Migration when large numbers of African-Americans moved out of the rural Southern United States. Hendricks attended Simon Gratz High School and graduated in 1963. He attended Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). After graduating PAFA (1967), Hendricks decided to enlist in the New Jersey National Guard and found work as an arts and crafts teacher with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. In 1970, he began attending Yale University and graduated in 1972 with both a bachelor's and master's degree. At Yale, he studied with Bernard Chaet, Lester Johnson, Gabor Peterdi, Robert Reed, and the photographer Walker Evans.

Hendricks was Professor of Studio Art at Connecticut College, where he taught drawing, illustration, oil and watercolor painting, and photography, from 1972 until his retirement in 2010, when he became Professor Emeritus. In the mid-1960s while touring Europe, he fell in love with the portrait style of artists like van Dyck and Velázquez. In his visits to the museums and churches of Britain, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, he found his own race was absent from Western art, leaving a void that troubled him. As the Black Power movement gained momentum, Hendricks set about to change what he saw in Europe by correcting the balance, in life-size portraits of friends, relatives and strangers, encountered on the street, that communicated a new assertiveness and pride among Black Americans. In these portraits, he attempted to imbue a proud, dignified presence upon his subjects. He frequently painted Black Americans against monochrome interpretations of urban northeastern American backdrops. Hendricks' work is considered unique in its marriage of American realism and post-modernism. Although Hendricks did not pose his subjects as celebrities, victims, or protesters, the subjects depicted in his works were often the voices of under-represented Black people of the 1960s and 1970s. Hendricks even stood alongside his subjects and featured himself in works. In 1969, he painted one of his first portraits, Lawdy Mama, which depicts a young woman (his second cousin) in the style of a Byzantine icon with gold leaf surrounding her modernly-dressed figure and Angela Davis style afro on an arched canvas. Hendricks said the portraits were about people he knew, and were only political because of the culture of the time.

In the 1970s, he produced a series of portraits of young black men, usually placed against monochromatic backdrops, that captured their self-assurance and confident sense of style. In 1974, Hendricks painted What’s Going On, one of his best-known portraits, named after Marvin Gaye's single What's Going On. In 1977, Hendricks' work appeared in the exhibition, Four Young Realists, at ACA Gallery in New York City. The show received critical acclaim, including the response of the prominent art critic, Hilton Kramer. Hendricks painted two self portraits in response: the first was Brilliantly Endowed (Self portrait), 1977, a full-frontal nude self-portrait in which he is wearing only sports socks and sneakers, some jewelry, glasses and a white leather applejack hat. In the second, Slick, 1977, also a frontal view, Hendricks depicts himself wearing a kufi cap, a symbol of his African American identity, and wearing a white suit.

In 1984, Hendricks turned away from painted portraiture during a period he referred to as the "Ronaissance," during the years of the Ronald Reagan presidency. For the next 18 years, he concentrated on photographic portraiture, but returned to painting for the last 15 years of his life. Hendricks' first career painting retrospective, titled Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, with works dating from 1964 to 2008, was organized by Trevor Schoonmaker at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in spring 2008, then traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Hendricks's work was featured on the cover of the April 2009 issue of Artforum Magazine, with an extensive review of Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool. His work, New Orleans Niggah, 1973, hung in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, when it opened in 2016. In early 2018, MassArt's Bakalar & Paine Galleries mounted the exhibition, Legacy of the Cool: A Tribute to Barkley L. Hendricks, which featured 24 artists who had been inspired by Hendricks. Legacy of the Cool included work by such notable artists as Rashid Johnson, Amy Sherald, Hank Willis Thomas, Thomashi Jackson, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Delphine Diallo, and Nona Faustine.

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2 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recordings ) : RR 38 1 reel, 0:54:21; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 39 1 reel, 1:35:14; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester.

Language of Materials

From the Series: English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
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Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US