Acclaimed PAFA alum Barkley L. Hendricks has died

Artist Barkley L. Hendricks (center) talking with Philadelphia Tribune writer Bobbi Booker and her son (left) Benjamen-Hannibal Collins. Photo credit: Linda Johnson. ISOCUAL.

Painter and photographer Barkley L. Hendricks, 72, born in Philadelphia and a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, died early Tuesday morning, April 18, at his home in New London, Conn.

Mr. Hendricks was widely acclaimed for his presentation of African American figures, sometimes confrontational, sometimes hip, sometimes vulnerable.

In 2008, he had his first career retrospective exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, "Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool" – a dazzling array of 57 paintings that presented a singular vision of American street life and dress. That show traveled to PAFA in 2009. 

"He was a true artist’s artist, always dedicated to his singular vision," Mr. Hendricks' New York dealer, Jack Shainman, said in a statement. "He was a figurative painter when it was trendy and especially when it wasn’t."

David Brigham, head of PAFA, characterized Mr. Hendricks as “one of PAFA's most distinguished alumni and an important artist in the history of American figurative art.”

Mr. Hendricks “gave voice to the African American community through his portraits of everyday people," Brigham continued, noting that “his powerful work will continue to influence artists for generations to come."

Following completion of four years at the academy in 1967, Mr. Hendricks went on to study at Yale University, where he received his BFA and MFA.

He was the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum's Rappaport Prize in 2016, the President's Award from the Amistad Center for Art and Culture in 2010, and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in 2008.

Mr. Hendricks' work is in the collections of  the Whitney Museum of American Art; the National Portrait Gallery; the National Gallery of Art; the Tate Modern in London; Studio Museum in Harlem; PAFA; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, N.C., among many other institutions.

"Barkley Hendricks was an innovative artist whose deeply original work has had an enormous influence on a younger generation of figurative painters,” said Clint Jukkala, dean of PAFA’s school.  “Outspoken and unapologetic, he painted subjects that are empowered and confident. A prolific painter and photographer, Hendricks was also a dedicated teacher, having been a professor at Connecticut College and a visiting critic at numerous schools including PAFA, where he served as a mentor to our students."

Mr. Hendricks is survived by his wife, Susan. Details on services are pending.