Barkley L. Hendricks (American, 1945–2017)
October’s Gone . . . Goodnight, 1973
Oil and acrylic on canvas
66 × 72 in. (167.6 × 182.9 cm)
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge; Richard Norton Memorial Fund
© Barkley L. Hendricks and President and Fellows of Harvard College. Courtesy of the Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
The Three Graces, figures from Greek mythology, was a popular motif for artists throughout early modern European art—from Sandro Botticelli to Peter Paul Rubens to Antonio Canova. Hendricks acknowledged the “direct influence” of the theme on this portrait of an unnamed Connecticut College student. She had sent anonymous letters to Hendricks, and, after he learned her identity, she posed for him. “She was married at the time,” he recalled, and her husband came to the studio. “I told him, ‘I am interested in painting, not messing around,’ and the brother never came back. And I finished the piece.” This is the earliest of Hendricks’s white-on-white limited-palette paintings.
Speaker: Linda McClellan on October’s Gone . . . Goodnight
I’d been married for almost a year. My husband was in the military in Georgia, and he was just a second lieutenant; we didn’t have a lot of money. So, I was looking for jobs on campus, and one of the jobs was that you could model for the art classes. And I modelled for a couple of classes, and one of them was, well, no, the only one was his, I believe. At that point, he asked me would I pose for him. That’s how I met Barkley.
He had definite ideas about how he wanted me to look and dress. He said “bring some things over.” Basically, long dresses. So, I brought the one that as you see in the painting and a few more things. But he preferred that dress. Even though I only wore my glasses for reading, he wanted me to wear those. And he wanted me to wear red fingernail polish which I really never wear. And the big hoop earrings, which I did wear.
I knew as the painting progressed, that it was going to be white-on-white. And uh, I didn’t know why because how are you going to see the dress? It’s white; it’s on white. But [laughs] you know, it turned out ok.
He didn’t talk a lot. He was very focused on his art. He was always concentrating on his on his painting. He did have music playing. He’d give me a break every now and then. But he was very, very focused. And I got really bored if you want to know the truth. I would be thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner, if I have enough money for pizza, no probably not, things like that. I need to call my husband, I miss him. I was pretty much bored and tired.
I just figured it would be boxed up, it was going to stay in his studio. I had no idea. Because at the time he was an art teacher and I thought it was just practicing his craft. You know I had no idea he was going to really be as big a figure in the art world as he is. If I had I would’ve asked for more money. I would’ve said “hey Barkley how about maybe another hundred dollars an hour?” [laughs]. But anyway. I’m sure he couldn’t have afforded it at that time.
When I used to pose for Barkley in his art class, it was full of females because you know initially Connecticut College was a female college. And they were all admiring him. I would not be surprised if there were girls in the class who were so enamored of him that someone in the class may have been writing him, but it wasn’t me. So anyway, never in my lifetime, wrote anonymous letters to anyone, but there were a lot of admiring young women there that one of them may have been writing him anonymous letters. I could see it. Because they were all very much taken with Barkley. Probably especially after he did his nude painting.
I had cancer of the scalp. And so, now I can’t grow my hair long anymore I have short hair again. After 50 something years. So, I look more like my painting now. Cause I used to have braids. Isn’t that interesting? Such a coincidence, isn’t it?
When I see those figures, I see my three daughters standing there. He never knew that was going to happen. But it just makes you think doesn’t it?
Speaker: Jack Shainman on October’s Gone . . . Goodnight
My name is Jack Shainman; I own the Jack Shainman Gallery here in New York City.
We met because he was in several of our group shows, and we kind of kept a friendship. He really liked Claude Simard, my partner in the gallery who passed away. They had a very special relationship. And Barkley would often just kind of show up at our front desk and all of a sudden, “Bah! Barkley Hendricks is here!”
He really did care where the paintings went. In fact, many of the early works were kind of earmarked for museum only.
October’s Gone we placed with the Fogg Museum at Harvard. Helen Molesworth was the curator, and Helen spent, I think, almost her whole yearly budget on this painting, although it was not so expensive at the time, compared to now. Because Helen wanted to retell the story, the art history that happened in the 60s, the 70s, into the 80s, because we have such kind of a myopic view of this very white, male-dominated art world, like nothing else was happening. Meanwhile, Barkley was happening, and if you look on this, the white-on-white painting, and dealing with this idea of form, line, abstraction, figuration, all together, was an important thing, and Helen really purchased this painting because she wanted to tell the right story, the true story, what was happening. It was a milestone, especially because he went to Yale, and all of that; he wanted his paintings to hang in places where they would be seen, and matter.
He was always open to listening, I think, I believe; but he was totally steadfast in his beliefs, probably more than anybody that I’ve ever met in my life. He really believed deeply in his values and in everything that he did.
Some of the meetings with journalists didn’t go so well, sometimes it became very combative [laughs]. You know, a few that I can think of, maybe I shouldn’t mention their names, but in the New York Times once, quote-unquote, “After a combative interview with Barkley Hendricks,” but it went on to be a good review.
We had just such a lovely relationship; he was such an extraordinary man.