Archive for October 8, 2012

Artist of the moment…..Ernie Barnes……

This artist was best known for being a professional football player. After retirement he came to painting and was known for his paintings of people of color with elongated and exaggerated arms and legs. His style would be similar to the paintings that J.J. (Jimmie Walker) used to paint on Good Times. Barnes most popular piece was called Sugarshack which consisted of a large group of persons of color dancing and partying the night away. In fact this was the piece used in the opening credits of the hit 1970s television series called “Good Times.”  This image is the sixth from the top of the gallery. The same image of the “Sugar Shack ” was used on a cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album titled ” I Want You.”  This lead to a great demand for the artist’s work.

The series “Good Times” starred John Amos as James Evans and his wife Florida who was played by Esther Rolle. The family lived in the projects and was always trying to find a way out. Jimmie Walker played the eldest son, who was quite an artist but never successful enough to get out of the ghetto. In one show he started a greeting card company, only to have it fail as well.

In this clip check out a short documentary on Ernie Barnes done by CNN.

Barnes was born in 1938 close to Durham, North Carolina. He grew up dirt poor with little chance of advancement in life due to the racist laws that existed in the south at that time. His father was a clerk for tobacco company, his mother helped run the household of an attorney. On some days his mother would take Ernie to the lawyers house and it was here he learned about fine art. He was appreciative of the art, though due to his race he couldn’t get into musuems.


On one of his first trips to a museum when he was in college, he asked where he could find paintings by African American artists. The musuem guide told him that, “your people don’t express themselves that way. ” Years later he would return to the museum for a solo show featuring his art.


Barnes wasn’t very athletic as a child. Pudgy and fat he was teased by other children and thus started drawing, sketching, and reading about art. A teacher who was a weightlifter and masonry coach, saw his drawings and asked what he would like to do in life. The teacher showed Barnes how to exercise properly and as a senior Barnes was captain of the football team and received more than twenty college scholarships for athletic.


A great art story is that as a newly signed player the artist was invited to watch the NFL championship match. He was so emotional after the game, he was signed by the Colts, he went back to his hotel room and using a palette knife and canvas made a painting he called the Bench. He would never sell this work in his lifetime and often travelled with the work even taking it to training camp.


His first television appearance in which he talked about art was with Regis Philbin back in 1962 for a local San Diego station.


After injuring his foot and giving up on football for a career, the artist went to the owners meeting of the NFL hoping to become its official league artist. Well the owner of the Jets ended up putting him on salary, but as an artist. The owner even arranged for Barnes to start selling his art.

Was named as official artist of the Los Angeles Summer Olympic games of 1984.

In this clip the Barnes describes the similarities of the character on Good Times J.J. Evans and himself.

low price range: Prints available from $250.

high price range: Original oils at $19,000.

Barnes passed away in 2009.

I found this artist’s path of life just remarkable in many ways. He was a great artist and I hope he gets more recognition now that he has passed on. His athletes have so much movement and life.

Artist of the moment……Romain de Tirtoff…..ERTE…


The artist was perhaps the best known designer of costumes and jewelry of the art deco movement. He also designed movie sets and did  a large number of art works in gouache and  prints.
He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in the year 1892.  His given name was Romain de Tirtoff. He became known as RT for the french pronounciation of the first letters of his first and last names. He came from a very well off family that was able to trace its roots back to 1548.

His father wanted him to go onto the navy, but this didn’t please the artist. He moved to Paris, went by the name Erte so as not to embarrass the family, and became an artist working under Paul Poiret. Less than two years later he signed on with Harpers Bazaar. A sort of entertainment weekly magazine celebrating the hottest fashions and styles in the world. Over a twenty two year period he produced more than 200 cover illustrations for the magazine.


Erte was also helped by designing sets for the fantastic dancer of the era, Gaby Deslys. She was French but eventually made her way to the United States and to silent movies. She was immensly popular worldwide, the Madonna or Lady Gaga of the time period, but she died from influenza complications at the age of 38.


In 1925 the artist was taken to Hollywood to help with set designs for a silent movie called Paris. Many problems happened on locations so Erte was given other assignments to keep him busy. He went on to set design for movies such as Ben Hur, The Mystic,  and the Comedian.


Included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I enjoy this artist for his many mediums he used. He was able to help launch his style of art deco, and then help relaunch it when it came back en vogue in the 1960s. He was not only a great artist, but a great businessman making a prolific amount of prints.


Low price range: Easy to find a lithograph print of Erte for a few hundred dollars.

High price range: Gouache pieces up to $20,000. Bronzes can be found for a couple thousand dollars.


The artist was very prolific so it won’t be hard to locate one his works!



The artist was not only lived a very long life, dying at the age of 97, but he was also very prolific. This clip shows some of his many prints and some of his bronze sculptures as well.  Very informative for the viewer.


How cool the internet is! I was able to find some footage of a birthday party for the artist celebrating the big 97 years old. The celebration was given in Paris, France by Kport gallery.

Another short montage of the artist’s work. If you didn’t have time to watch the more than 1o minute clip, this is a great substitute.


Erte died in 1990 at the age of 97.