I love history and art. But I had never heard this amazing story of a slave who became a professional portrait painter in 18th century America. I found the story on OUT OF THE ARCHIVES – a blog exploring the Archives at the Hingham Heritage Museum.
Henry Barnes was a distiller and manufacturer of pearl ash. He and Christian were members of Marlborough’s financial elite and in the early 1770’s owned 3 slaves. Prince was the son of their slave Daphney. I’m not sure when Prince’s artistic talent became known but eventually he was supported by Christian Barnes who seeing his genius had Henry purchase Prince with a view towards improving his genius in painting “.
PORTRAIT OF CHRISTIAN BARNES BY PRINCE DEMAH BARNES
In a letter by Christian she writes:
“Prince is here and I am sitting to him for my picture.”
A month later in November 1769 Prince is purchased by Henry Barnes with the intention to educate and improve his talent.
HENRY BARNES BY PRINCE DEMAH BARNES
In 1770 Christian Barnes wrote:
Prince is “a most surprising instance of the force of natural genius for without the least instruction or improvement he has taken several faces which are thought to be very well done. He has taken a copy of my picture which I think has more resemblance than Coping’s. [sic]. She is referring to the famous 18th century portrait painter John Singleton Copley.
So Prince is the first African-American professional artist in America! For approximately 10 years he had a career as an artist. When the Revolution came the Barnes fled and Prince enlisted in the Massachusetts militia as a free man. He was now called Prince Demah (removing “Barnes “). He died from either smallpox or another disease on March 1778. In his will he left all he had to his mother Daphney.
PORTRAIT OF WILLIAM DUGUID BY PRINCE DEMAH
An amazing artist story. Never judge a person by the color of their skin but by the content of their character!!!
I became aware of the Russian artist in 2005. His paintings were hypnotic and colorful. Modernist for the time of early 20th Century. I posted many of them on my Flickr site as images that I admired in their strength and power.
But his story was more intriguing than I could ever imagine. His artistry included more than painting. He was an architect, a theatre set and costume designer for the Russian ballet including the infamous Sergei Diaghilev in 1898. He also studied law and history. His painting “The Messenger” 1897 earned him the title of artist securing him a place in the history of Russian art.
But it was an article on the website Atlas Obscura titled “Why the Soviets Sponsored a Doomed Expedition to a Hollow earth Kingdom “. How a search for the hidden land of Shambahala turned into a geopolitical power play. By Dimitra Nikolaidou.
I learned that Roerich was a believer in mysticism and upon arriving in America joined the Theosophy Society. He became famous in his mystical theories and had many important political followers who participated in his teachings in New York City during the 1920s. He and his wife Helena and his 2 sons were eventually sponsored by the U.S. to search for the underground city of Shambahala in Asia in 1923. That expedition would take 5 years and the Roerichs would be followed by Soviet spies as well as British and Mongolian spies in what became the “Great Chase”.
Shambahala was believed to have special weapons that would make the finders able to survive apocalyptic future.
I am not going to give a spoiler alert but Roerich ventured again in 1934 to find the hidden city. Check out Atlas obscura for more. Here are the incredible spiritual paintings that are actually at the Nicholas Roerich Museum (his home) on West 107 th Street NYC.
HOW TO GET OFF THE HINDENBURG!
My mind is still spinning. How did so many people drink the Kool Aid???? We’ve lost our minds.
The challenge is existing in a country run by a narcissistic sexual predator for 4 years. I’ve been afraid to post my feelings of this election but this is MY blog so I can do whatever I want. However, I’m not going to give attention to the future “Not My President “.
As an artist I am guided to help the pain in the world by creating beauty again. I don’t want to do anything political in art. I want to paint serenity in a time of darkness. My art has never been motivated by politics. My paintings are to escape insanity and to remind people that there is beauty.
I’m a mature artist so I will leave politics for the younger generation. The generation that tells me my art is “over the couch art “. Great I’ll take that market. I’m not proud. A lot of people like pretty paintings.
Anyway, my point is the lack of creativity and culture in our country created this mess. A creative mind would never have been led down this path. The mind that thinks creatively would see and hear the bullshit. The way out was limited but the choice made was a misinformed one.
A creative mind sees a bigger picture. A creative mind experiences life with multiple options. It is not led by others. That’s why people think artists are strange. Different.
My mission is to get people to start creating. I want them to start to think like an artist. No talent needed. Just an open mind. Unlock imagination. Let go of fear and worry. Look at beauty again. Love people. Stop comparing. Stop complaining. The call to action is start thinking about what’s really important to you and your community. Don’t go down the rabbit hole with toxic people. No one has the power to take away your thinking. Your decisions. Your life. Your country. We gave over our power and listened to lies. We only heard what we wanted.
As an artist I have to get people to get their own minds back teaching them creativity. I have to create paintings of beauty.
THE WORLD CAN BE BEAUTIFUL AGAIN IF WE WORK TOGETHER.
A few of my “over the couch” paintings.
I used to love dolls as a child in the 1950’s/60’s. Of course I had 6 or 7 Barbie dolls. But there was one doll my mother gave me that she would not let me play with. That doll sat in the box and she kept it squirreled away in her bedroom closet. This doll was a Madame Alexander collectible called Cissy. The doll would be taken out once a month to look at. Another strange thing is the doll never had any doll clothes. Nothing. This is weird because the doll only wore underwear. It was fancy but not fun to look at all the time.
After I moved out of my mother’s home I forgot about my Cissy doll I couldn’t play with. I was 17 and over dolls. Mom kept her forever after in the box like the strange doll she always was. Here is what my so-called Cissy doll looked like.
Cissy is worth a lot of money today. But I forgot about her because my mom kept her hidden in her closet till the day she finally ended up in a nursing home. I think she was a creepy doll. Why did my mother give me a doll I couldn’t have??? You figure.
So in the 1920’s there was a trend of grown women collecting interesting and strange dolls. Some were called boudoir dolls because they sat on beds. I found a lot of strange doll photos from the era. Boy a lot of weird things going on in that era. Take a look.
But this phenomenon had a sinister male here and there. .. YIKES
Wave Hill has a Sunroom Project Space where guest artists display their work. I met artist Amie Cunat peeking through her exhibition “HIDEOUT “. Her work is created with cardboard and paper mache.
I love this colorful hanging and I think it would be an extraordinary room divider in my apartment.
And Amie’s special guest at the opening was dressed to match the art.
The Hudson River is alive with art. I attended the opening reception of The Glyndor Gallery show Nature Pops.
“A half-century after the emergence of Pop art as a revolutionary response to new norms of consumerism, Nature Pops!, Wave Hill’s summer 2016 exhibition, brings together work by artists who calibrate this movement in contemporary terms. Continuing to re-evaluate popular culture, particularly the increasing mediation of our experience by technology, artists question whether we can still have an authentic experience―even in the natural world. Interpreting nature and the environment through a populist lens, Nature Pops! includes recent work that is especially relevant in an age of digital overload and environmental crisis. Presenting the show at Wave Hill, a stunning garden and cultural center located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, adds particular depth and dimension to the discussion.
Nature Pops! affirms the fascination that the aesthetics of pop culture—the culture of everyday—still has for artists, but offers nuanced perspectives, sometimes subversive, sometimes playful. Cartoons and comics were accessible media that Pop artists elevated to fine-art status in the 1960s and ’70s. ”
There is a tremendous amount of talent in the Bronx and the Hudson Valley. If you have not been to Wave Hill you are missing a world of nature and art. It is a hidden gem in the Bronx. My friend, Jamie Passevento, a fellow artist friend and I attended the opening of the above exhibition. It was exciting and colorful. It was a fun show expressing nature in the form of the Pop Art movement. Here’s the art and artists who participated in the show.
EMILIO PEREZ – his unique prints inspired by outer space.
KIRA NAM GREENE – amazing paintings in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils. Kira weaves incredible patterns with food in Pop Art tradition ala Warhol.
AMY PRYOR – Amy uses collage, sculpture and painting to explore commerce and culture.
JOANNE CARSON – extremely colorful paintings of flora and landscapes.
GABRIEL DE GUZMAN – Curator
22″ x 28″ acrylic landscape. I couldn’t sleep tonight so the canvas called to me!