African American Hero of the Day

African American Almanac
ISBN: 9781578593231

Which artist was considered to be a leading talent of the post-Civil War "journeyman period" of African American art?

  • In his early career, he also worked as a photographer.
  • Born in Pittsburgh, his AME bishop father wanted him to become a minister.
  • Becoming an expatriate in Paris, he focused his art on religious themes.
  • Some of his most famous paintings include The Banjo Lesson (1890) and Daniel in the Lion's Den (1896).

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)


Henry Ossawa Tanner was born on June 21, 1859, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tanner chose painting rather than the ministry as a career, overcoming the strong objections of his father, an African Methodist Episcopal bishop. After attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he taught at Clark University in Atlanta, supplementing his salary by working as a photographer. Some of Tanner's most compelling work--such as The Banjo Lesson (1890)--was produced during this period, with Tanner emerging as the most promising black artist of his day. Alain Locke called Tanner the leading talent of the "journeyman period" of Black American art.

In 1891, however, Tanner abandoned black subject matter and left the United States for Paris, where he concentrated on religious themes. In 1896 his Daniel in the Lion's Den, a mixture of realism and mystical symbolism, won honorable mention at the Paris Salon. The following year the French government purchased his Resurrection of Lazarus. In 1900 Tanner received the Medal of Honor at the Paris Exposition and the Lippincott Prize.

Tanner died on May 25, 1937. His notable works include Flight into Egypt, The Annunciation, Thankful Poor, and The Sabot Makers.

From African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence by Lean'tin Bracks, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R). A wealth of milestones, inspiration, and challenges met . . .

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