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 Richmond Barthe  (1901 - 1989)

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Lived/Active: New York/California/Mississippi / Jamaica      Known for: expresssionist monument and figure sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Richmond Barthe (Barthé) is known for his many public works.  He received acclaim for his realistic sculptural depictions of African-Americans during the 1930s-40s, and produced numerous portraits, as well as allegorical* and genre* figures, and became especially known for his dancers (Falk).

Barthe was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi of French Creole ancestry.  His mother was a Robeteau, of New Orleans French Creole ancestry; the Barthé family came from the South West region of France, where descendants today still operate an active vineyard among other enterprises.

At the age of eighteen, Barthe, then residing in New Orleans, won his first prize -- a blue ribbon for a drawing he sent to the County Fair.  In 1924, with the aid of the Reverend Harry Kane S.S.I, Barthe, with less than a high school education and no formal training in art, was admitted to the school of the Art Institute of Chicago*. During this time he pursued a career in painting, until in his fourth year, Barthe began modeling in clay to gain a better understanding of the third dimension in his painting.  This transition proved to be a turning point in his career.  He exhibited two busts in the Negro History Week Exhibition and in the April 1928 annual exhibition of the Chicago Art League.  He received much admiration from the critics and numerous commissions.

Following his graduation from The Art Institute of Chicago in 1929, Barthe moved to New York and established his first studio in Harlem.  During the next two decades, he built his reputation as a sculptor.  By 1934, his reputation was so well established that he was awarded his first solo show at the Caz Delbo Galleries, New York City.

Barthe experienced success after success and was considered by writers and critics as one of the leading "moderns" of his time.  Eventually, the tense environment and violence of the city began to take its toll, and he decided to abandon his life of fame and move to Jamaica, West Indies.  His career flourished in Jamaica, and he remained there until the mid-1960's.

The ever-growing violence forced yet another move.  For the next five years he lived in Switzerland, Spain, and Italy before eventually settling in Pasadena, California, where he worked on his memoirs until his death in 1989, and most importantly, made editions of many of his works with the financial assistance of the actor, James Garner.

Notable public works that Barthe created include his Toussaint L'Ouverture Monument and General Dessalines Monument, both in front of the Palace, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Green Pastures: Walls of Jericho for the Harlem River Housing Project; and Rose McClendon for Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater House.

Richmond Barthe received many honors during his career, including the Rosenwald Fellowship*, Guggenheim Fellowship*, and membership in the National Academy of Arts and Letters.  His work is also in public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; and The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.

Peter Hastings Falk (ed.)Who Was Who in American Art
Information about the artist's ancestry courtesy of Elizabeth Simmons, who is a relative on his mother's side.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Richmond Barthe is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Black American Artists
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