Lot 8
  • 8

Barkley L. Hendricks

700,000 - 1,000,000 USD
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  • Barkley L. Hendricks
  • Brenda P 
  • signed
  • oil and acrylic on canvas 
  • 72 by 50 in. 182.9 by 127 cm.
  • Executed in 1974.


The artist
The Project, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2005


Wichita, Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Barkley Hendricks: Paintings, February - March 1976 
New York, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, November 2008 - March 2009, p. 118, fig. 6, illustrated (with the artist in installation, 1976)


This work is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at +1 (212) 606-7254 for the report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is unframed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Presenting a figure of supreme confidence, poise, and sophistication, Barkley Hendricks' captivating portrait Brenda P from 1974 is a resounding testament to the artist’s unrivaled ability to conjure compelling personalities with extraordinary specificity. Posed in graceful contrapposto, arms assertively akimbo, the elegant silhouette is at once alluring and elusive: catching the viewer’s gaze from behind her stylish, over-sized rose-tinted sunglasses, Brenda P both challenges and welcomes the viewer’s participation, exemplifying the emotive complexity which distinguishes Hendricks’ extraordinary brand of portraiture. Within his tightly rendered paintings, members of the artist’s own community—his family, friends, and individuals who caught his attention on the street—are captured with unprecedented poignancy; indeed, no artist has exemplified a particular generation, urban aesthetic, notions of race or personal sensibility more acutely. Although many of Hendricks’ subjects remain anonymous, it is possible that the effortlessly elegant subject of Brenda P is in fact Brenda Payton, the lead singer of the popular Philadelphia R&B band Brenda and the Tabulations, who had a series of hit singles in the early 1970s around the time of this painting's production. While his uncompromising depictions of confident black individuals were challenging, even radical within the 1970s art world, Hendricks’ artistic privileging of a culturally complex black figure is today celebrated as groundbreaking and visionary. As described by Trevor Schoonmaker, art historian at the Nasher Museum and Chief Curator of the artist’s celebrated travelling retrospective exhibition of 2008-2010, “Hendricks stands out as an artist ahead of his time. His work has defied easy categorization, and his unique individualism has landed him outside of the mainstream, but his bold and empowering portrayal of those who have been overlooked and underappreciated has positioned him squarely in the hearts of many…By representing the black body in new and challenging ways, Hendricks’ pioneering work has unwittingly helped pave the way for future generations of artists of color to work with issues of identity through representation of the black figure. Today his body of work is as vital and vibrant as ever, and it should prove him to be a lasting figure in the history of American art.” (Trevor Schoonmaker, “Birth of the Cool,” in Exh. Cat., Durham, Duke University, Nasher Museum of Art (and travelling), Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, 2008, p. 36) An early and visually arresting example of Hendricks' rare full-size portraits, Brenda P hails from the critical year of 1974 - a landmark period of his production that includes such renowned paintings as What's Going On, recently featured in the exhibition Soul of a Nation. Sensual, cool, and exuding an ineffable funk characteristic of contemporaneous 70s popular culture, Brenda P is an archetype of the artist's most assured portraits. Dressed in sumptuously saturated scarlet and green fabrics, her platform sandals poised in the effortless contrapposto pose of classical figurative sculpture, Brenda P testifies, not only to Hendricks’ extensive familiarity with tradition of “high” canonical portraiture, but to the artist’s unique absorption of these techniques as a means of reclaiming a status rarely afforded to minority figures within canonical art history. Born in Philadelphia in 1945, Hendricks attended the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; it was during his years at PAFA that Hendricks first visited the legendary European art centers that would prove to have a lasting effect on his idiosyncratic brand of portraiture. While visiting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Prado in Madrid, Hendricks observed Rembrandt’s distinctive use of light and shadow, Frans Hals’ attention to detail in the folds of a sitter’s clothing, and Gustav Klimt’s exquisite renderings of three-dimensional figures against a luminous, flat ground; in the present work, Hendricks absorbs and transforms the techniques of the Old Masters, making evident his own mastery of paint and color by simulating distinct textures, shadows, and depth with remarkable skill. Against the monochromatic backdrop of white, the entirety of the viewer’s focus is upon the radiance of Hendricks’ subject, bringing the artist’s exquisite attention to light, fabric, and subtly nuanced hue to the fore. Within the rich intensity of the figure’s crimson blouse, minute brushstrokes designate embroidery around the neckline with remarkable intricacy, while subtly nuanced shading in the fabric’s folds and wrinkles provides fascinating textural depth to the intentionally polished composition. Beneath the flowing hems of Brenda P’s green bell-bottoms, a glimpse of neatly painted toes adds a startling intimacy to Hendricks’ otherwise regal depiction. Indeed, even more astounding than Hendricks' astute mastery of color and intricate handling of his figure’s sartorial voice is the almost-preternatural ability with which he depicts the unique power and personality particular to the individual before him: while Hendricks passed away in April 2017, his painting and the personalities they represent hum with an alacrity and spirit that will resonate with and inspire viewers for generations to come.