Obituary: James Hendricks, Professor Emeritus of Art

James Hendricks
James Hendricks

James Powell Hendricks, 79, of Northampton, professor emeritus of art, died July 26.

Born Aug. 7, 1938, in Little Rock, Arkansas, he graduated from Little Rock Central High School and continued his education with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa.

He taught art at Mount Holyoke College and the University of Iowa before joining UMass Amherst in 1965, where he taught fine art for 39 years, retiring in 2004.

He was a prolific painter and sculptor who exhibited his work internationally (including England, Macedonia, South Korea, Columbia and Japan), as well as in New York City and throughout the U.S. 

A collection of his early photorealist moon paintings was included in a group exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in 1969 and the National Gallery in 1970. Time Magazine photographed one of his paintings for the cover of the Aug. 9, 1971, issue. Shortly thereafter, he left photorealism for a more personally expressive style in abstract expressionism and color field painting. He continued in that vein until the last day in his studio.

He is perhaps best known for his very large and colorful, acrylic on canvas, abstract paintings.  His curriculum vitae includes an extensive list of museums, art centers, galleries, colleges and universities, commissions and projects, public and private collections, and a comprehensive bibliography.   

He leaves his wife of 18 years, Leslie Cernak; his daughters Elizabeth and Valerie; and his step-daughter Lochlyn Cernak-Mitchell.

A celebration of life will be held at his studio and residence Oct. 14 at noon. Friends are welcome to attend. For directions or further information, email