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. 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, 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. “"Barkley L. Hendricks, Anew".” Barkley L. Hendricks/Birth of the Cool, edited by Trevor Schoonmaker, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2008, pp. 38–57.

Powell, Richard J. “"Paesaggio come evasion. Soggezione e affrancamento nelle immagini ottocentesche di afroamericani".” Pittura Americana Del XIX Secolo: Atti Del Convegno, edited by Marco Goldin and H Barbara Weinberg, Linea d’Ombra Libri, 2008, pp. 116–36.

Powell, R. J., et al. “"A Conversation with Martin Puryear".” Martin Puryear, edited by John Elderfield, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007, pp. 99–110.

Powell, Richard J. “"The Aaron Douglas Effect".” Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist, edited by Susan Earle, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2007, pp. 53–73.


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. 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.

Powell, R. J. “What Becomes a Legend Most? Reflections on Romare Bearden.” Transition, vol. 55, 1992, pp. 62–72.

Powell, Richard J. “"In My Family of Primitiveness and Tradition": William H. Johnson's "Jesus and the Three Marys".” American Art, vol. 5, no. 4, University of Chicago Press, Oct. 1991, pp. 21–33. Crossref, doi:10.1086/424127. Full Text


Spring 2020

African Art: Court/marketplace (ARTHIST 345.01)
Smith Wrhs A290, MW 03:05 PM-04:20 PM
The American Artist (ARTHIST 546S.01)
Smith Wrhs A266, W 06:15 PM-08:45 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