Seated Man in a Landscape (1958)

Seated Man in a Landscape is an Oil on canvas dating to between 1950-58, by James Richmond Barthé (died 1989). It is a rare painting by the noted African American sculptor, created during his 20-year stay in Jamaica. Much of Barthé's sculptural work centres on the 'spirituality of the Black male form'. Here we see Lucian Levers, an employee of the artist, in a highly staged composition. Painted in profile, Levers is dressed as an agricultural worker, set against the backdrop of an idealised Jamaican landscape including the Blue Mountains.

It is now displayed at Belton House, Lincs, which, like most stately homes, boasts a great many pieces of fine art, to which this is no inferior. Yet its subject- a poorly dressed black agricultural worker- seems somewhat out of place. Although you may not detect it on so small a picture below, the two portraits in the top left and right of the shot are of Kings William III and George I respectively. Other subjects at Belton’s library are of earls and dukes and countesses. Yet there sits the picture of Lucian Levers, famous for his portrait rather than his bloodline.

We know that angels take a keen interest in the gospel and its adherents, the people saved by their great God’s amazing grace. Perhaps, if there were portrait galleries of heaven, there are pictures of us. Not because of our greatness, of course, but because of the One in whose image we are being remade. Not because we are attractive, but because the Artist took an interest in our being. Though fit for hell and knowing nothing better than a fallen planet, we are destined for the greatest palace. We may look out of place in that paradise of perfection- yet it will be out home for ever.