Close Modal

Barkley L. Hendricks

Portraits at The Frick

Foreword by Thelma Golden
Contributions by Derrick Adams, Hilton Als
Look inside
American artist Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017) revolutionized contemporary portraiture with his vivid depictions of Black subjects beginning in the late 1960s. This book contextualizes Hendricks’s portraits at different stages of the country’s history and places him in the pantheon of innovative twentieth-century artists.

Hendricks developed his signature style at a time of significant social and cultural change in the United States, especially with regard to Black artists, and amid a perceived bifurcation between abstraction and representation. He produced portraits from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Following a hiatus during which he made landscapes, basketball paintings, works on paper, and photographs, he resumed his portraiture practice from 2002 until his death in 2017. Hendricks’s portrait paintings, often derived from photographs of friends and family, hired models, or figures he encountered on the street, were inspired by the artist’s research, international travels, and visits to museums like The Frick Collection, where he studied centuries-old European paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Bronzino, and others.

This publication presents some of the most inventive and striking examples from Hendricks’s first period of portrait painting, including “limited-palette” canvases—featuring Black figures dressed in white against white backgrounds—a self-portrait, and boldly colorful works that spotlight their subjects’ spectacular styles and poses. An assessment of this great artist acknowledges his significant contributions to the canon of American art and portraiture in general. In the book, Hendricks’s art and its impact are explored by artists and creative figures including Derrick Adams, Hilton Als, Nick Cave, Awol Erizku, Rashid Johnson, Fahamu Pecou, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley.
"Yet, Hendricks’s mastery of the genre is reinforced by his understanding of the function of all great portraiture: to elucidate what the artist considers the grand persona of the subject, while simultaneously memorializing the version the artist wishes to commit to history. Hints to these are present in some of the photographs in “Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick,” a monograph accompanying the exhibition. Drawn from Hendricks’s archive, the pictures demonstrate the original character of some of the figures and how Hendricks introduced little elements to change or accentuate their personalities: glasses for models that originally wore none, a change in hairstyle or a hat, an entire replacement of attires, addition or removal of jewelry, a toothpick to create an unforgettable, funky vibe." — The New York Times

"Inspired by European masterpieces but rooted in his own milieu, the painter produced dazzling portraits of African-American subjects, several of which are on view in an exhibition at Frick Madison." — The Wall Street Journal

"From the late painter’s solo Frick show — the only by a Black artist in the museum’s history." — New York Mag

"Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick by Aimee Ng and Antwaun Sargent (Sept. 19, $50, ISBN 978-0-8478-7359-3) celebrates the portraits of late American painter Hendricks, often of Black subjects, and draws connections between his practice and his study of European paintings in the Frick Collection." — Publishers Weekly
Aimee Ng is Curator at The Frick Collection. Antwaun Sargent is a curator and a writer. Thelma Golden is director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

About

American artist Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017) revolutionized contemporary portraiture with his vivid depictions of Black subjects beginning in the late 1960s. This book contextualizes Hendricks’s portraits at different stages of the country’s history and places him in the pantheon of innovative twentieth-century artists.

Hendricks developed his signature style at a time of significant social and cultural change in the United States, especially with regard to Black artists, and amid a perceived bifurcation between abstraction and representation. He produced portraits from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Following a hiatus during which he made landscapes, basketball paintings, works on paper, and photographs, he resumed his portraiture practice from 2002 until his death in 2017. Hendricks’s portrait paintings, often derived from photographs of friends and family, hired models, or figures he encountered on the street, were inspired by the artist’s research, international travels, and visits to museums like The Frick Collection, where he studied centuries-old European paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Bronzino, and others.

This publication presents some of the most inventive and striking examples from Hendricks’s first period of portrait painting, including “limited-palette” canvases—featuring Black figures dressed in white against white backgrounds—a self-portrait, and boldly colorful works that spotlight their subjects’ spectacular styles and poses. An assessment of this great artist acknowledges his significant contributions to the canon of American art and portraiture in general. In the book, Hendricks’s art and its impact are explored by artists and creative figures including Derrick Adams, Hilton Als, Nick Cave, Awol Erizku, Rashid Johnson, Fahamu Pecou, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley.

Praise

"Yet, Hendricks’s mastery of the genre is reinforced by his understanding of the function of all great portraiture: to elucidate what the artist considers the grand persona of the subject, while simultaneously memorializing the version the artist wishes to commit to history. Hints to these are present in some of the photographs in “Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick,” a monograph accompanying the exhibition. Drawn from Hendricks’s archive, the pictures demonstrate the original character of some of the figures and how Hendricks introduced little elements to change or accentuate their personalities: glasses for models that originally wore none, a change in hairstyle or a hat, an entire replacement of attires, addition or removal of jewelry, a toothpick to create an unforgettable, funky vibe." — The New York Times

"Inspired by European masterpieces but rooted in his own milieu, the painter produced dazzling portraits of African-American subjects, several of which are on view in an exhibition at Frick Madison." — The Wall Street Journal

"From the late painter’s solo Frick show — the only by a Black artist in the museum’s history." — New York Mag

"Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick by Aimee Ng and Antwaun Sargent (Sept. 19, $50, ISBN 978-0-8478-7359-3) celebrates the portraits of late American painter Hendricks, often of Black subjects, and draws connections between his practice and his study of European paintings in the Frick Collection." — Publishers Weekly

Author

Aimee Ng is Curator at The Frick Collection. Antwaun Sargent is a curator and a writer. Thelma Golden is director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Books in Bloom

Springtime means warmer weather, a season of renewal, and fresh new books perfect for spring holidays, blooming garden parties, and outdoor adventures! Whether you’re hosting the holidays or looking to flex your green thumb, we have everything you need to gift, garden, and grow this spring. Check out our highlights below to browse our favorite

Read more