Bahsir (Robert Gowens)

Triple portrait of a man in a blue coat yellow pants with a hat against a yellow-green background

Barkley L. Hendricks (American, 1945–2017)
Bahsir (Robert Gowens), 1975
Oil and acrylic on canvas
83 1/2 × 66 in. (212.1 × 167.6 cm)
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham; Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Jack Neely
© Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo Brian Quinby.


Hendricks described the sitter as “a good friend from Philadelphia” who visited him in New London, Connecticut. The arched windows of Hendricks’s State Street studio are reflected in the eyes of the central figure. Like October’s Gone . . . Goodnight, Bahsir draws on the classical motif of the Three Graces, the triple-portrait format suited for subjects for whom he “felt that one pose was not enough.” Here, however, two of the figures slightly overlap, enhancing the illusion of the bodies in space. Bahsir is among the tallest of Hendricks's figural paintings. He recounted having stood on a paint bucket to reach the heads and hats in the upper section.

  534 — Speaker: Trevor Schoonmaker
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