B is for…

James Richmond BARTHE.

“All my life I have be interested in trying to capture the spiritual quality I see and feel in people, and I feel that the human figure as God made it, is the best means of expressing this spirit in man”

Artist/Sculptor Richmond Barthe was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1901, moving to New Orleans, Louisiana with his mother following the unexpected death of his father, Richmond Barthe Sr. Not much is mentioned about his childhood other than his mother, Marie Clementine Robateau, placing a pencil in his hand and paper at his feet to keep young Richmond occupied before he could even walk. (Genius move on the part of Mama Barthe, if you ask me; I can only imagine what it would have been like to have drawing as my first language.)

As a young man Barthe undoubtedly exhibited a talent for art, specifically for painting, which caught the attention of family, friends and clients of his mother, a seamstress and stepfather who delivered ice in their parish. Lyle Saxon, a writer for the New Orleans Times Piscayune also took notice of young Barthe’s talent; rallying behind him and his education. Despite their fight against racial school segregation in a Nation still fresh out of the binds of salvery, Barthe as a Colored American was barred from enrolling into any art institution in the south.

Throughout the disappointment Barthe continued to pursue his talent and caught the attention of a parish priest, after gifting his church with a painting. Being so impressed with Barthe’s work he funded his education at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1923.

While in his fourth and final year of studying painting, Barthe took an interest in anatomy, a turning point, which lead him to sculpture. A moment in time ultimately defining his life as an artist, taking him around the world… from Renaissance to Revolution, sharing his depiction of his people.

*Richmond Barthe went on to establish himself as a sculptor WAY beyond what I’ve given you here today. But I stop here and hope that what I’ve given you will spark a fire encouraging you to pick up where I left off and investigate more about the life he went on to lead and the art that has inspired myself and countless others. Cheers – Deanna

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