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He was born in “the Jim Crow” era in “the bottom” community of Durham, North Carolina, on July 15, 1938 and named Ernest “Ernie” Eugene Barnes, Jr. His father worked as a shipping clerk at Liggett Myers Tobacco Company. His mother Fannie Mae Geer oversaw the household staff for prominent attorney Frank Fuller, Jr. He was a former professional football player for the Baltimore Colts, New York Titans, San Diego Charges, Denver Broncos and Canadian Football League. He wanted to be the NFL’s official league artist. He kept pursuing art and credits Ed Wilson, his college art instructor, for laying the foundation for his development as an artist. He urged Barnes to paint from life experiences. Barnes first painting sale was in 1959 for $90 to Boston Celtic Sam Jones for a painting called Slow Dance. Critics have defined Barnes’ work as neo-mannerist. It is based on his signature use of serpentine lines, elongation of the human figure, clarity of line, unusual spatial relationships, painted frames, and distinctive color palettes. He is credited as the founder of the neo-mannerism movement - because of the similarity of technique and composition prevalent during the 16th century, as practiced by such masters as Michelangelo and Raphael. In homage to his father Barnes would frame his paintings in distressed wood. When visiting his parents home in Durham, Barnes noticed a “once white fence was greying, One day I placed a painting against the fence and stood away and had a look. I was startled at the marriage between the old wood fence and the painting.  It was perfect, In tribute... Daddy’s fence would hug all my paintings in a prestigious New York gallery. That would have made him smile.” Perhaps his most famous painting is “Sugar Shack”. It was used in the TV series “Good Times” as well as an album cover for Marvin Gaye. He passed away on April 27, 2009 at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California from a rare blood disorder. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Durham, North Carolina near the site where his family home once stood and at the beach in Carmel, California, one of his favorite cities.
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