Saturday, December 5, 2015

Artkst of the Week: Henry Tanner


The most distinguished African-American artist of the nineteenth century, Henry Ossawa Tanner was also the first artist of his race to achieve international acclaim. Tanner is often regarded as a realist painter, focusing on accurate depictions of subjects. While his early works, such as "The Banjo Lesson" were concerned with everyday life as an African American, Tanner's later paintings focused mainly on the religious subjects for which he is now best known.

 Henry's first artistic efforts were marine scenes and animals painted at the Philadelphia Zoo. In 1878 he painted several Adirondack landscapes while convalescing from an illness. In 1879, Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he joined Thomas Eakins's coterie. Tanner moved to Atlanta in 1889 in an unsuccessful attempt to support himself as an artist and instructor among prosperous middle class African-Americans.

Bishop and Mrs. Joseph C. Hartzell arranged for Tanner's first solo exhibition, the proceeds from which enabled the struggling artist to move to Paris in 1891.Henry moved to Paris France to escape the racial prejudice that was an impediment to the aspirations and ambitions of all African Americans in that era. Paris was a welcome escape for Tanner; within French art circles the issue of race mattered little. Tanner acclimated quickly to Parisian life.

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