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Henry Ossawa Tanner: The First Recognized African-American Painter

 

The Thankful Poor, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1894

The Thankful Poor, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1894

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was the first African – American artist who gained international recognition. He has stolen the hearts with religious and African – American life paintings that were worth an admiration. Because of the painting subject focus and the techniques, parallels with Rembrandt and Caravaggio can be drawn.

 

Frederick Gutekunst, photographic print of Henry Ossawa Tanner 1907

Frederick Gutekunst, photographic print of Henry Ossawa Tanner 1907

Tanner’s father was a minister in Pennsylvania, therefore, he was more fortunate and had a chance to study in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He went to Europe to gain more experience in Académie Julien in Paris, where he stayed eventually for good. Even though his artwork was recognized in the US, he did not feel comfortable staying there due to racism. Nevertheless, he was not forgotten in the States and his work was displayed at exhibitions and his talent received awards. However the biggest reward was granted to him in Paris – a medal from the Paris Salon of 1897 that was considered to be very valuable.

 

Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1909

Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, Henry Ossawa Tanner, c. 1909

Tanner is known for several areas he specialized in, it was everyday life of Afro Americans, reflecting all the good features that were not noticed or ignored by the rest of society to show the dignity they have, but that often was neglected to them. Tanner was a very religious person therefore a lot of his artwork was dedicated to the God, apart from the two mentioned, he did an amazing job in landscape paintings as well.