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*On this date in 1901, Richmond Barthe was born. He was an African American sculptor.
From Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, his father died at 22, when he was only one month old. His mother was very devoted and influenced his aesthetic development significantly. When Barthe was twelve, his work was shown at the county fair in Mississippi and he continued to develop remarkably as an artist. At eighteen, having moved to New Orleans, he won first prize for a sketching he submitted in the Parish (county) competition.
Lyle Saxon of the Times Picayune newspaper, tried unsuccessfully against racist policy to get Barthe registered in art school in the New Orleans. Yet in 1924, with the aid of a Catholic priest he was admitted to the school of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the next four years Barthe followed the curriculum structured for majors in painting. It was during his senior year he was introduced to sculpture by his anatomy teacher.
This was carried out to allow a more enhanced understanding of the third dimension as a way of broadening his painting. This according to Barthe was the beginning of his long career as a sculptor. By 1934, he gave his first solo show at the Caz Delbo Galleries in New York City, many other exhibitions and commissions followed. His pieces are additions to many important collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art (African Dancer), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago (The Boxer).
Barthe’s commissions are include two portrait busts and a garden sculpture for the Edgar Kaufman house Falling Water, designed for Frank Lloyd Wright and an Othello modeled after Paul Robeson for Actor’s Equity. In 1947, he decided to leave his role as one of the leading “moderns” of American Art by moving to Jamaica until 1969. After other world travels, to study classic renaissance masters and smell the roses of life in Europe, Barthe returned to New York in 1976. He moved to Altadena, California soon afterwards where he lived until his death in 1989.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York