Lyman Allyn Art Museum
New London, Connecticut
through September 3, 2023
Today, the large, powerful portraits of Black men and women painted by Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017) sell for millions of dollars. Though successful and respected during his lifetime, the African American artist would probably have been amazed by his stratospheric prices and influence today.
Originally from Philadelphia, Hendricks studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, then Yale University. In 1972 he began teaching art at Connecticut College in New London — 50 miles east of Yale — and kept that post until 2010, remaining in the town until his death six years ago.
Now New London’s Lyman Allyn Art Museum has mounted an exhibition of 34 paintings and photographs that examines Hendricks “from a regional standpoint, exploring the role of place, community, and teaching over the span of his career in Connecticut,” in the words of curator Tanya Pohrt.
Depicted in them are Hendricks himself, as well as his neighbors, students, family, and strangers; several regional landscapes have been included, too.
Hendricks’s ascendance will be enhanced this autumn by a small show at New York City’s Frick Collection (September 21–January 7) that presents a dozen of his finest portraits in the context of that museum’s famous portraits by Rembrandt, Bronzino, Van Dyck, and others. Hendricks loved visiting the Frick, and would surely be gratified that his art has helped blaze a path for the richness of Black portraiture being produced today.