O.J. Simpson in his Prime

Ernie Barnes is perhaps the most celebrated football player turned artist in history. He was an official artist of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and was named America's Best Painter of Sports by the American Sport Art Museum & Archives.

In 1969, Barnes created a powerful portrait of a young O.J. Simpson in his USC uniform. The painting was commissioned by Edward Hookstratten, LA-based sports attorney and agent, in 1969, and given to Coach John McKay, Simpson's coach at the University of Southern California. The painting hung in McKay's office at USC until he left to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in 1976.

This fascinating painting by Barnes displays the artist's expressive portraiture and closeness to the game of football. Barnes had retired from the NFL as a player himself only four years earlier. Simpson here is  muscular and lean, with a scowl--an imposing, almost defiant, figure with the fiery colors of cardinal and yellow both in his uniform and the sky. 

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