This month I have chosen Henry O. Tanner as my Artist of the Month. A month ago, I started reading the African American Art by Sharon E Patton. In it she mentions the impeccable work that Tanner created depicting race relations from that time period. I wanted to make him my March artist. So… He is the FIRST documented African American painter to receive international acclaim. He is best known for his piece titled The Banjo Lesson.
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Tanner was a child of a minister under the first independent black denomination (African Methodist Episcopal) and former slave. His father was even a friend of Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and social reformer. Through the years, he gained an appreciation for the arts. He enrolled in the Philadelphia Academy of the Arts as the only black student befriending many artists and learning various techniques. Even though he was only there for a short time, he was able to take away many things that developed into his works, like The Arch.
For a better chance at getting his work appreciated and removing himself from the burden of racism, he moved to Paris, France. He was immediately accepted into the world and he never returned to the states to live. It was his chance to branch out and see what the world had to offer. You begin to see a shift in his works. Sometimes you need to step out and see exactly where you may land.
You can find many of his pieces within the Smithsonian Museum & 1 even in the Green Room of the White House.