Ernie Barnes

“One day on the playing field, I looked up and the sun was breaking through the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, ‘That’s beautiful!’ I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I had felt on the field into my paintings.”

Ernie Barnes was born in 1938, in Durham, North Carolina. His father, Ernest Barnes Sr., worked as a shipping clerk at a local tobacco company and his mother, Fannie Mae Geer Barnes, was employed as a domestic for Frank Fuller Jr., a wealthy Southern attorney who would guide Barnes into the world of art.

By the time Barnes entered the first grade, he was familiar with the works of such masters as Toulouse-Lautrec, Delacroix, Rubens, and Michelangelo. By the time he entered junior high, he could appreciate, as well as decode, many of the cherished masterpieces within the walls of museums — although it would be a half dozen more years before he was allowed entrance because of his race.

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