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Barkley L. Hendricks, Treasure Birds (Thoughts of Christmas) (detail), 1999. Oil on canvas, 21 1/2 inches (54.61 cm) diameter. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Susan and Barkley L. Hendricks in honor of Director Trevor Schoonmaker, 2020.6.1. © Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks. Image courtesy of the artist's estate and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Barkley L. Hendricks, Treasure Birds (Thoughts of Christmas) (detail), 1999. Oil on canvas, 21 1/2 inches (54.61 cm) diameter. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Susan and Barkley L. Hendricks in honor of Director Trevor Schoonmaker, 2020.6.1. © Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks. Image courtesy of the artist's estate and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Barkley L. Hendricks may be best known for his revolutionary, large-scale portraits, but he was equally dedicated to creating an extensive series of intimate plein-air landscape paintings, including this one, Treasure Birds (Thoughts of Christmas). Beginning in the 1980s, Barkley L. Hendricks and his wife Susan took an annual trip to a remote farming village on the southern coast of Jamaica. There, Hendricks spent his days painting the natural environment, responding to the changes in weather and light as he navigated finishing each work on site before sunset. Unlike working in a studio with controlled lighting, as natural light shifts, so does the eye’s reading of color and tone. These were challenges that Hendricks relished as a painter. Hendricks framed his work within a gilded tondo, referencing similar frames used in 15th-century Florentine painting.

The circular shape functions in a portal-like fashion, transporting the viewer to another time and place, as if seen through the eye of the artist. There is a noticeable absence of people in his landscapes—in this case only frigatebirds in the expansive sky and a small slice of land jutting into the Caribbean Sea. Through these techniques, Hendricks’s landscapes evoke a sense of solitude and peace, while inviting reflection on Jamaica’s colonial history and its ongoing struggle with neo-colonial consumption through tourism.

—Nasher Museum Director Trevor Schoonmaker, who organized the 2008 original traveling exhibition Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool at the Nasher Museum.

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