His painting titled, "Sugar Shack" appeared as cover art on a Marvin Gaye album and in the closing credits of the popular television show "Good Times."
According to his biography, Barnes is best known for his unique figurative style of painting and before his death, was widely recognized as the foremost African American living artist.
Also among his achievements is the title of official artist of the 1984 Olympics. Barnes has been called a pioneer of the "neo-mannerist" style, which featured elongated figures in motion.
But Barnes not only showed talent on canvas, he also showed promise on the football field. As a student at Hillside High School in Durham, Barnes played football. After graduating, he attended NC Central University on a football scholarship and majored in art.
In 1959, he was drafted as a professional football player. During his career, he was an offensive lineman for the New York Titans, the Baltimore Colts, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos.
In 1966, Barnes made his artist debut in a critically acclaimed solo exhibition at Grand Central Art Galleries in Manhattan and retired from football. For the next 40 years, his work was admired and collected internationally.
According to his family, Barnes had a rare blood disorder that contributed to his death.