We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Little old man



Barkley L Hendricks

1945 – 2017

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    United States of America
    Media category
    Materials used
    oil and acrylic on linen
    152.4 x 127 x 3.18 cm stretcher; 157.16 x 131.76 x 5.72 cm frame
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated u.r. corner, oil "B. Hendricks 73"

    Purchased with funds provided by Kerr Neilson 2022
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Barkley L Hendricks. Courtesy of the Estate of Barkey L Hendricks and Jack Shainman, New York

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Barkley L Hendricks

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Barkley Hendricks is perhaps best-known for his bold, life-sized portraits of African American figures. His subjects, many of them family, friends and neighbours, are rendered in a realist style using oil and acrylic, often set against monochromatic backgrounds that are a tonal extension of the figure. Hendricks’ captures the personality of the individual, placing great emphasis on their style and sartorial flair. The attitude and confidence of his subjects radiates from the canvas as they meet the gaze of the viewer, almost as though they were examining us rather than the other way around.

    In 'Little old man' the painted figure contemplates the world from a comfortably seated position, legs crossed, and hands clasped together. He looks out from the canvas with an inscrutable expression, leaving us to wonder where he was when his image was captured, and what he might have been waiting for. The painting belongs to a series of ‘limited palette’ works Hendricks made in the 1970s, engaging with abstraction and minimalism through the genre of portraiture. The figure floats against a flat background colour that tonally matches his clothing and the chair he is seated in, drawing our focus to his eyes, his hands, and the detail of his well-worn sneakers. The simplicity of the background also recalls the flatness of gold leaf backgrounds in icon paintings, subtly underlining the suggestion that this man, though unnamed, is a special figure and a revered ancestor.

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    United States of America

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions