Richard J. Powell

Richard J. Powell

John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences


  • 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 Dean of the Humanities and the 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, RJ. From the Potomac to the Anacostia: Art and Ideology in the Washington Area. Washington, DC: Washington Project for the Arts, 1989. (Exhibition Catalog)

Powell, RJ. James Lesesne Wells: Sixty Years in Art. Washington, DC: Washington Project for the Arts, 1986. (Exhibition Catalog)

Powell, RJ. Rhapsodies in Black: The Art of the Harlem Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Exhibition Catalog)


Powell, RJ. ""The Systems and Semiotics of Ras Ishi Butcher"." Ras Ishi/Secret Diaries. Miller Publishing Company, Ltd., 2009. 19-27.

Powell, RJ. ""Unexpected Faces in Public Places"." Who Am I in This Picture? Amherst College Portraits. Amherst College, 2009. 8-15.

Powell, RJ. ""Barkley L. Hendricks, Anew"." Barkley L. Hendricks/Birth of the Cool. Ed. T Schoonmaker. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2008. 38-57.

Powell, RJ. ""Paesaggio come evasion. Soggezione e affrancamento nelle immagini ottocentesche di afroamericani"." Pittura Americana del XIX secolo: Atti del convegno. Ed. M Goldin and HB Weinberg. Linea d’Ombra Libri, 2008. 116-136.

Powell, RJ, Powell, RJ, and Puryear, M. ""A Conversation with Martin Puryear"." Martin Puryear. Ed. J Elderfield. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007. 99-110.

Powell, RJ. ""The Aaron Douglas Effect"." Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist. Ed. S Earle. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2007. 53-73.

Powell, RJ. ""Changing, Conjuring Reality"." Conjuring Bearden. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2006. 19-31.

Powell, RJ. ""Racial Imaginaries, from Charles White’s Preacher to Jean-Paul Goude and Grace Jones’ Nigger Arabesque"." Back to Black: Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary. Whitechapel Art Gallery, 2005. 9-27.

Powell, RJ. ""On James A. Porter’s and (our) Modern Negro Art"." A Proud Continuum: Eight Decades of Art at Howard University. Howard University Gallery of Art, 2005. 25-28.

Powell, RJ. "To Be Real." The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience. New London, Connecticut: Lyman Allyn, 2001. 13-15.


Powell, RJ. "Art of the Harlem Renaissance." Art Bulletin 77 (September 1, 1995): 132-137.

POWELL, RJ. "ART, HISTORY, AND VISION." ART BULLETIN 77.3 (September 1995): 379-382.


Powell, RJ. "The Art of Raymond Saunders: Colored." New Observations 97 (1993): 10-15.

Powell, RJ. "What Becomes a Legend Most? Reflections on Romare Bearden." Transition 55 (1992): 62-72.

Powell, RJ. "Margo Humphrey: Interview." Hatch-Billops Collection, Inc./Artist and Influence 5 (1987): 56-65. (Interview)

Powell, RJ. "William H. Johnson's Minde Kerteminde." Black American Literature Forum 20.4 (1986): 393-403. Full Text

Powell, RJ. "On Exhibit: Black Artists of the Nineteenth Century." The Chicago Reader (August 16, 1985): 10-11.

Powell, RJ. "African Art at the Field Museum." African Arts 18.2 (February 1985): 24-24. Full Text


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