Artist and former professional football player Ernie Barnes has died. He was 70. Best known for his unique, figurative style of painting, Barnes is widely recognized as the foremost African-American artist today.
Born on July 15, 1938, in Durham, North Carolina, Barnes took up track and field and football in high school and played football at North Carolina Central University on an athletic scholarship. He went on to play offensive guard for five seasons in the American Football League and was designated the “Official Artist of the American Football League”.
In 1965, New York Jets owner Sonny Werblin recognized Barnes’ artistic potential and replaced his football salary for one season so he could devote himself “to just paint”. One year later, Barnes made his debut in a critically acclaimed solo exhibition at Grand Central Art Galleries in Manhattan and retired from football. His autobiography, From Pads to Palette, chronicles his transition from athlete to artist.
Barnes’ artwork is characterized by elongated figures, usually in motion. His famous “Sugar Shack” dance scene appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You in 1976 and the closing credits of the Good Times television show.
VIDEO ABOUT ERNIE BARNES
Barnes died Monday at a hospital of complications from a rare blood disorder. He is survived by his wife, brother, two sons and three daughters.
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