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Richmond Barthe’s Rug Cutter

The President and mrs. Carter welcome you on the occasion of the national conference of artists
Two figures in dance

Mississippi native Richmond Barthe was one of a small group of successful American sculptors.  Born of Creole, African American, and Native American heritage on January 28, 1901, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Barthe’s artistic talent was discovered and encouraged as a youth.  In addition to his mother, his work attracted the attention of an employer, nuns at his local school, and a Catholic priest, Father Kane, who helped the young Barthe enter art school in 1924.  As racial discrimination prevented Barthe from attending school in Mississippi, he travelled to Illinois to attend the Art Institute of Chicago.  Initially planning on becoming a painter, a class project ignited a passion for sculpture near the end of his training. 

While Barthe worked on several commissioned sculptures, including the bust of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, he produced a number of smaller figurines like Rug Cutters. A career as a sculptor allowed Barthe the opportunity to receive several fellowships, exhibit his work, and travel the world.  On April 21, 1980, he was one of a dozen African American artists honored at The National Conference of Artists hosted by President Jimmy Carter at the White House.

The Richard Barthe Collection in Special Collections at the University of Southern Mississippi contains materials collected by former USM art professor Harry C. Ward and a scrapbook donated by Barthe’s sister Ms. Edna Wright.  For more information about this collection or any materials in Special Collections, contact Jennifer Brannock at Jennifer.Brannock@usm.edu or 601.266.4347. To see more Items of the Month, click here.

Text by Eve Wade, PhD Candidate, Department of History