On April 6, Varnette P. Honeywood’s iconic painting, ‘Birthday,’ will come to the auction block at BLACK ART AUCTION.

‘BIRTHDAY’ WAS PAINTED IN 1974, and the image was seen each week from 1984 to 1992 on the set of The Cosby Show, in the Huxtable family living room, hanging on the wall behind the sofa adjacent to the stairs.


VARNETTE P. HONEYWOOD, “Birthday,” 1974 (acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 inches). Signed, titled, and dated. Provenance: Private Los Angeles Collection


BLACK ART AUCTION is presenting pop-up preview exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles, where the painting will be displayed in an abstracted replica of the set. The lot will also be on view in advance of the sale in Saint Louis, Mo., at Black Art Auction headquarters. The dates and locations are as follows:

    High Line Nine, 508 West 28th Street. | March 16-19
    7303 Melrose Avenue. | March 30-April 2
    Black Art Auction, 1608 Menard Street. | April 4-6, By Appointment

Honeywood (1950-2010) grew up in Los Angeles, where her parents had migrated from the South to teach elementary school. She earned a B.A. in art at Spelman College and an M.A. in education from the University of Southern California.

Working with color, pattern, and texture, Honeywood focused on the Black experience—triumphs, challenges, and the quotidian. Her familial scenes and positive images of Black women reflect her own life and close-knit family structure. In “Birthday,” the artist depicts a tender, intergenerational moment celebrating and honoring a grandmother on her special day.

“Varnette Honeywood had a clear vision of how she perceived Black people and families and a gift for sharing her joyful, colorful perspective with the rest of the world,” Marian Wright Edelman wrote in a tribute to the artist. (Remembering Varnette Honeywood, Spelman Messenger, Spring 2011)

Ernie Barnes’s “Sugar Shack” (1976) featured on Good Times and Honeywood’s “Birthday” seen on The Cosby Show (and also pictured in a national advertisement for AT&T) led the way in raising the popularity of Black figurative art, supporting the idea and emphasizing the importance of having Black images hanging in Black homes.

“Birthday” addresses important themes in African American culture, including the extended family and faith. Honeywood painted what she called Black lifestyles. She once said: “I paint experiences I had as a young girl.… The family is constantly endangered in all segments of our community. I think it’s important for somebody to show the positive aspect of the family.”

For more information, visit www.blackartauction.com


This post is sponsored by Black Art Auction