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, Richard J. “"Changing, Conjuring Reality".” Conjuring Bearden, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2006, pp. 19–31.

Powell, Richard J. “"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, pp. 9–27.

Powell, Richard J. “"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, pp. 25–28.

Powell, R. J. “To Be Real.” The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience, New London, Connecticut: Lyman Allyn, 2001, pp. 13–15.

Powell, R. J. “Sartor Africanus.” Dandies: Fashion and Finesse in Art and Culture, edited by Susan Fillin-Yeh, New York: New York University Press, 2001, pp. 217–42.

Powell, R. J. “Harmonizer of Chaos.” Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence, edited by Peter Nesbett and Michelle DuBois, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000, pp. 147–63.

Powell, R. J. “Conjuring Canes and Bible Quilts: Through the Prism of Nineteenth Century African American Spirituality.” African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures, edited by Vincent L. Wimbush, New York: Continuum, 2000, pp. 342–54.

Powell, R. J. “Lamentations from the ‘Hood.” Kerry James Marshall/Mementos, Chicago: The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2000, pp. 31–47.

Powell, R. J. “The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism.” African American Literary Criticism, 1773 to 2000, edited by Hazel Arnett Ervin, New York: Twayne Publishers, 289-302, 1999.


Powell, R. J. “Margo Humphrey: Interview.” Hatch Billops Collection, Inc./Artist and Influence, vol. 5, 1987, pp. 56–65.

Powell, Richard J. “William H. Johnson's Minde Kerteminde.” Black American Literature Forum, vol. 20, no. 4, JSTOR, 1986, pp. 393–393. Crossref, doi:10.2307/2904438. Full Text

Powell, R. J. “On Exhibit: Black Artists of the Nineteenth Century.” The Chicago Reader, Aug. 1985, pp. 10–11.

Powell, Richard J. “African Art at the Field Museum.” African Arts, vol. 18, no. 2, JSTOR, Feb. 1985, pp. 24–24. Crossref, doi:10.2307/3336186. Full Text

Powell, R. J. “Black Folk in America, 1930-1980.” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, 1984, pp. 11–18.

Powell, R. J. “Current Expressions in Afro-American Printmaking.” Printnews, vol. 3, Apr. 1981.

Powell, R. J. “The Afro-American Printmaking Tradition.” Printnews, vol. 3, Feb. 1981, pp. 3–7.

Powell, R. J. “9/9.” The New Art Examiner, vol. 7, June 1980, pp. 10–11.

Powell, R. J. “Houston Conwill.” Neworld, Feb. 1979.

Powell, R. J. “Talking to James Lesesne Wells.” Print Review, vol. 9, 1979, pp. 65–75.


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

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

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