Barkley Hendricks was best known for his full-figure, life-sized portraits of people of color that he began painting in the late 1960s. "Bahsir (Robert Gowens)" is a rare work by Hendricks that depicts the same person from three different angles. His triple-perspective composition is loosely based on historical depictions of "The Three Graces" who represented beauty, charm and joy in Greek mythology. Hendricks's painting, however, replaces conventional impressions with the real details of the individual, illustrating the psychology of his subject, a fashionable man that the artist had befriended in his hometown of Philadelphia. Bahsir's manner of dress is reminiscent of the popular fashion found in Blaxploitation films of the early 1970s such as "Shaft," "Super Fly," and "Foxy Brown." Hendricks's artistic inspiration was derived equally from the technical virtuosity of Old Master painters, like Jan van Dyck and Rembrandt van Rijn, and the Black American style and attitude of his own era. Through these references, Hendricks' portraits boldly privilege an American subject who has often been overlooked and disregarded by mainstream society.


  • Title: Bahsir
  • Creator: Barkley L. Hendricks
  • Creator Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Date Created: 1975
  • Location: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
  • Physical Dimensions: 83 1/2 x 66 inches (212.1 x 167.6 cm)
  • Type: Painting
  • Publisher: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
  • Rights: © Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks
  • External Link: https://nasher.duke.edu/exhibitions/barkley-l-hendricks-birth-cool/
  • Medium: Oil and acrylic on canvas
  • Art Form: Painting
  • Credit Line: Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Jack Neely. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

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