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. "Sartor Africanus." Dandies: Fashion and Finesse in Art and Culture. Ed. S Fillin-Yeh. New York: New York University Press, 2001. 217-242.

Powell, RJ. "Harmonizer of Chaos." Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence. Ed. P Nesbett and M DuBois. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000. 147-163.

Powell, RJ. "Conjuring Canes and Bible Quilts: Through the Prism of Nineteenth Century African American Spirituality." African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures. Ed. VL Wimbush. New York: Continuum, 2000. 342-354.

Powell, RJ. "Lamentations from the ‘Hood." Kerry James Marshall/Mementos. Chicago: The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2000. 31-47.

Powell, RJ. "The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism." African American Literary Criticism, 1773 to 2000. Ed. HA Ervin. New York: Twayne Publishers, 289-302, 1999.


Powell, RJ. "Black Folk in America, 1930-1980." Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin (1984): 11-18.

Powell, RJ. "Current Expressions in Afro-American Printmaking." PrintNews 3 (April 1981).

Powell, RJ. "The Afro-American Printmaking Tradition." PrintNews 3 (February 1981): 3-7.

Powell, RJ. "9/9." The New Art Examiner 7 (June 1980): 10-11.

Powell, RJ. "Houston Conwill." Neworld (February 1979).

Powell, RJ. "Talking to James Lesesne Wells." Print Review 9 (1979): 65-75.

Powell, RJ. "Images and Identities: A Brief, Introductory Note." The International Review of African American Art 11.3: 6-6.

Powell, RJ. "Journeying Beyond: The Prints and Paintings of Joyce Wellman." The International Review of African American Art 10.3.


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