Study for Brother to Brother
A gifted draughtsman, Ernie Barnes habitually produced graphite studies that were later enlarged into finished paintings. For the lifelong athlete, drawing was a training ground that tested out new ideas and strengthened what he called “the muscle of the mind.” Study for Brother to Brother develops the intricate bodily arrangement of a young boy sitting atop the shoulders of an adult male––either a family member or mentor. In Barnes’s steadfast social ideology, mentorship helped transmit values like morality, hard work, and spiritual strength. Positive results of intergenerational relationships are communicated through the rapturous body language of Study for Brother to Brother. The upward thrust of the entire composition bespeaks hope for the future––the boy, practically weightless, thrusts out his limbs as he charges forward with unfettered optimism. Likewise, the man appears to paradoxically gain strength and fortitude by carrying his younger brethren, his arms and head cast towards the sky in a state of revelry. Resilient and dignified, each figure smiles broadly with their eyes squinted. Through shut eyes, Barnes referenced systemic racism in the United States and the discrimination he personally experienced. At the same time, the buoyancy of the two men depicted in this drawing relates the undeterred perseverance that is nourished by fraternity.
Graphite on paper
Artwork: 34 x 26 in. (86.36 x 66.04 cm.) Mat: 39 x 30 in. (99.06 x 76.2 cm.)
2020 Acquired from Estate. Private Collection, Maryland
Year of Creation