BAIA BITS: Richard Yarde


Little Moments Where Knowledge Meets Art



Few artists have become one with their work in the way Richard Yarde did. The Boston-born painter, who suffered serious kidney problems over the last quarter of his life, incorporated images of his own X-rays into his paintings. Known for his vibrant and exploratory watercolor imagery, Yarde acknowledged that his paintings mirrored his own history, his joys and loves, his illness and perseverance. 

As a child in Boston, where his parents settled after emigrating from Barbados, Yarde took local art classes and forged an affinity for watercolor. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts cum laude and a Master of Fine Arts from Boston University, the talented painter produced a series of historic portraits of African American heroes along with richly rendered depictions of the jazz scene during the Harlem Renaissance. Before long, Yarde received national acclaim while becoming a revered figure within the prestigious New England art scene. He explored the African American tradition in rich strokes, often employing grid patterns which he attributed to the influence of his mother’s quilting. 

In 1990, Yarde took a position as an art professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Not long after, he suffered a series of strokes that shifted the focus of his work to themes of illness, vulnerability, spirituality, and healing. By the time of his death in 2011, Yarde’s works had appeared in solo and group exhibitions throughout the country and permanently in three dozen public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the Smithsonian Institution.

In a collection description from Massachusetts’ R. Michelson Galleries, Yarde is recognized for his talent, his boldness, and his artistic blending of the cultural with the personal:

“…as his own illness became a dominant factor in his life, it also became one in his painting. Imagery of fragmentation (like the gridwork of his trademark style) led to themes of healing and integration. Boldly and on a grand scale, Richard Yarde took the disparate elements of our American culture, past and present and our intellectual heritage and showed that they are one and the same with our own personal journeys to integrate them into a cohesive whole. Richard’s artistic journey is the journey of our American consciousness.”

Be sure to check out two phenomenal examples of Yarde’s work in the BAIA collection, Pageant and Savoy: The Lindy I

BAIA BITS are produced in part by the generous support of our Patreon members with a special shout out to Zadig & Voltaire. 



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