Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Sheer Talent of Henry Ossawa Tanner

His subject matter pictured life of blacks in the U.S. South during the 1880s. He, too, was black, and probably one of the first black artists to be exhibited in galleries throughout the U.S. This, however, is not what made Henry Ossawa Tanner famous. Rather, it was just his sheer talent.
Tanner was born on this day in 1859 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied painting under the noted artist Thomas Eakins while attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. It was Eakins who encouraged the young Tanner to paint professionally. Several years later, in 1891, Henry Tanner moved to Europe to escape racial prejudice. He settled in Paris where he continued his studies and turned to painting pictures with religious themes. His art with its glowing, warm colors and dramatic light and dark contrasts was influenced greatly by the Dutch artist Rembrandt. Still, it was his early work like The Banjo Lesson (shown above) that is best known.

Tanner died in the city he came to love and call his own, Paris. His work lives on in the United States, having been displayed in galleries in Louisville to New Orleans, from Chicago to New York City.

The Banjo Lesson, an oil painting on canvas, hangs in the Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia.

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