Richard J. Powell

Richard J. Powell

John Spencer Bassett Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History


  • Ph.D., Yale University 1988

  • M.Phil., Yale University 1984

  • M.A., Yale University 1982

  • M.F.A., Howard University 1977

  • B.A., Morehouse College 1975


Richard J. Powell is John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University, where he has taught since 1989.  He studied at Morehouse College and Howard University before earning his doctorate in art history at Yale University.  Along with teaching courses in American art, the arts of the African Diaspora, and contemporary visual studies, he has written extensively on topics ranging from primitivism to postmodernism, including such titles as Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991), Black Art: A Cultural History (1997 & 2002), and Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008).


African American art, African art, art of the United States


Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture
Examining portraits of black people over the past two centuries, Cutting a Figure argues that these images should be viewed as a distinct category of portraiture that differs... read more »

Powell, R. J. Jacob Lawrence. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1992.

Powell, R. J. Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.

Powell, R. J. From the Potomac to the Anacostia: Art and Ideology in the Washington Area. Washington Project for the Arts, 1989.

Powell, R. J. James Lesesne Wells: Sixty Years in Art. Washington Project for the Arts, 1986.

Powell, R. J. Rhapsodies in Black: The Art of the Harlem Renaissance. University of California Press.


Powell, R. J. “Walking on Water: Embodiment, Abstraction, and Black Visuality.” Represent: 200 Years of African American Art in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, edited by R. J. Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois, 2014, pp. 1–19.

Powell, R. J. “New Negroes, Harlem, and Jazz (1900-1950).” The Image of the Black in Western Art, edited by D. Bindman and H. L. Gates, Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 53–104.

Powell, Richard J. “"Foreword: Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Devotional Memorial".” Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial, edited by Sarah Greenough and Nancy Anderson, Yale University Press, 2013, pp. xv–185.

Powell, Richard J. “"Herein Lie Buried Many Things: Screens, Entryways and Cabinets in Twentieth-Century Black Visual Discourse".” African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond, Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012, pp. 12–33.

Powell, Richard J. “"Tanner and Transcendence".” Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, edited by Anna O. Marley, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012, pp. 56–65.

Powell, Richard J. “"The Woodshed".” Romare Bearden: American Modernist, edited by Ruth Fine and Jacqueline Francis, National Gallery of Art, 2011, pp. 200–2006.

Powell, Richard J. “"From Diaspora to Exile: Black Women Artists in 1960s and 1970s Europe".” The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora, edited by Saloni Mathur, Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, 2011, pp. 78–90.

Powell, Richard J. “"The Systems and Semiotics of Ras Ishi Butcher".” Ras Ishi/Secret Diaries, Miller Publishing Company, Ltd., 2009, pp. 19–27.

Powell, Richard J. “"Unexpected Faces in Public Places".” Who Am I in This Picture? Amherst College Portraits, Amherst College, 2009, pp. 8–15.


Powell, Richard J. “PAINT IN THE NAME OF LOVE.” International Review of African American Art, vol. 22, no. 2, 2008, pp. 64–65.

Powell, Richard J. “Linguists, Poets, and ‘Others’ on African American Art.” American Art, vol. 17, Mar. 2003, pp. 16–19.

Powell, Richard J. “Appreciation. Jacob Lawrence: Keep on Movin’.” American Art, vol. 15, Mar. 2001, pp. 90–93.

Powell, R. J. “On Alain Locke and James Porter.” Hatch Billops Collection, Inc./Artist and Influence, vol. 11, 1998, pp. 1–8.

Powell, Richard J. “Cinqué: Antislavery Portraiture and Patronage in Jacksonian America.” American Art, vol. 11, no. 3, University of Chicago Press, Oct. 1997, pp. 49–73. Crossref, doi:10.1086/424304. Full Text

Powell, R. J. “Art of the Harlem Renaissance.” Art Bulletin, vol. 77, Sept. 1995, pp. 132–37.

Powell, R. J. “The Subject in/of Art History.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 77, no. 3, Sept. 1995, p. 515. Scopus, doi:10.1080/00043079.1995.10786651. Full Text

POWELL, R. J. “ART, HISTORY, AND VISION.” Art Bulletin, vol. 77, no. 3, Sept. 1995, pp. 379–82.

POWELL, R. J. “IMAGES AND IDENTITIES + EDITORIAL - A BRIEF, INTRODUCTORY NOTE.” International Review of African American Art, vol. 11, no. 3, 1994, pp. 6–6.

Powell, R. J. “The Art of Raymond Saunders: Colored.” New Observations, vol. 97, 1993, pp. 10–15.


Spring 2021

Art of the US (ARTHIST 384.01)
Online ON, TuTh 01:45 PM-03:00 PM
Harlem Renaissance (ARTHIST 554S.01)
Online ON, W 10:15 AM-12:45 PM

Fall 2020

African American Art (ARTHIST 283.01)
Online ON, MW 10:15 AM-11:30 AM
Outsiders and Insiders (ARTHIST 715S.01)
Online ON, W 01:45 PM-04:15 PM

Spring 2020

The American Artist (ARTHIST 546S.01)
Smith Wrhs A285, W 06:15 PM-08:45 PM
African Art: Court/Marketplace (ARTHIST 345.01)
Smith Wrhs A290, MW 03:05 PM-04:20 PM

Fall 2019

African American Art (ARTHIST 283.01)
Smith Wrhs A266, MW 08:30 AM-09:45 AM
The Black Atlantic (ARTHIST 383.01)
Smith Wrhs A290, MW 01:25 PM-02:40 PM

Fall 2018

African Art: Court/Marketplace (ARTHIST 345.01)
Smith Wrhs A266, MW 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Perform Gender/Exhibit Race (VMS 512S.01)
Smith Wrhs A290, W 01:25 PM-03:55 PM

Spring 2018

African American Art (ARTHIST 283.01)
Smith Wrhs A266, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Black Visual Theory (VMS 555S.01)
Smith Wrhs A290, Th 03:05 PM-05:35 PM

Spring 2017

Art of the US (ARTHIST 384.01)
Smith Wrhs A266, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM
Outsiders and Insiders (ARTHIST 715S.01)
Smith Wrhs A290, Th 01:40 PM-04:10 PM

Fall 2015

African American Art (ARTHIST 283.01)
East Duke 209, WF 10:05 AM-11:20 AM

Fall 2014

Black Visual Theory (VMS 555S.01)
East Duke 204A, M 03:05 PM-05:35 PM

Spring 2014

The Black Atlantic (ARTHIST 383.01)
East Duke 108, TuTh 03:05 PM-04:20 PM
Art of the US (ARTHIST 384.01)
East Duke 204B, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM