Ernie Barnes

Born in Durham, North Carolina

Former professional football player, Ernie Barnes is best known for his unique figurative style and is widely recognized as the foremost African American artist.

Barnes attended North Carolina Central University, where he played college football. He went on to play offensive guard for five seasons in the American Football League (AFL). He played for three teams: the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos, and was designated as "Official Artist of the American Football League"

His artwork is characterized by elongated figures, usually in motion. Owing to his athletic background, many of his paintings have a sports theme or fabled black athleticism. He was named Official Artist of the 1984 Summer Olympics and received the 1984 and 2004 Sport Artist of the Year Award presented annually by the American Sport Art Museum and Archives.

For over 40 years, his neo-mannerism style of art has been admired and collected internationally. His national traveling “Beauty of the Ghetto” exhibition in the 1970s featured some of his timeless works as “Storyteller,” “High Aspirations” and “The Graduate.” His famous 1971 “Sugar Shack” dance scene appeared on the “Good Times” television show and on the Marvin Gaye album “I Want You.” This image has been widely imitated and Barnes’ expressive style has influenced countless aspiring artists.

Barnes died in 2009 following a brief illness. The artwork here is made available through our relationship with a private collector.

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