First Look: Ernie Barnes’ The Tunesmith

New York | 16 November

Vividly pulsating with soulful vigor and musical rhythm, Ernie Barnes’s The Tunesmith from 1978 is a strikingly cinematic yet intimate scene of an African American pianist that evinces Ernie Barnes’s celebrated legacy for capturing some of the most vivacious and joyful depictions of twentieth century Black life.

Posed to compose a song with immense focus, the protagonist of the present work perfectly exemplifies Barnes’s unique Neo-Mannerist approach of depicting figures with elongated limbs, a style that imbues them with infectious energy, movement, and rhythm. The Black musical heritage embodies a central motif for Barnes, whose visual interpretation of sonic rhythm and dance reverberates throughout his most celebrated paintings, standing today as inspiring and enduring odes to the uplifting power of music and its historical significance within the African American community.

Ernie Barnes’ The Tunesmith will be offered in the Contemporary Evening Auction on 16 November at Sotheby’s New York.

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