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The Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner

 Henry Ossawa Tanner is the most distinguished African-American artist of the nineteenth century, and the first one to rise above the racial discrimination prevalent at the time and achieve international acclaim. Tanner was born on June 21, 1859, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was only 13 when he decided to pursue a career in art, after seeing an artist at work while on a walk with his father through Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.

“It was this simple event that, as it were, set me on fire,” Tanner later recounted of the experience. Eager to discourage his son's interest, Tanner‘s father sent him to apprentice as a flour miller. This endeavor didn’t last long, as Tanner struggled with various health issues, and working at the mill proved to be too strenuous for him. Interestingly, this worked in his favor. While recovering at home, Tanner started to develop his painting skills, and in 1880, at the age of 21, he was able to enroll at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 

 
The Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner
Photo by L. Matthes (Public Domain)

In 1888, the artist moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to try and make a living, and save money to travel to Europe while continuing to work on his art. It was during his time in Atlanta that Tanner met Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell and his wife, who went on to become his main patrons. Thanks to their patronage, Tanner was able to achieve his dream of traveling to Europe in 1881. He initially intended to study art in Rome, but after a stop in Paris, he fell in love with the Parisian art scene and decided to stay. 

Tanner’s artistic career blossomed in Paris. He went on to spend the rest of his life in France, where he felt a measure of relief from the racial prejudices he had to fight in his home country. In 1923, Tanner was made an honorary chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor, and in 1927, he became a full academician of the National Academy of Design. In his later years, Tanner was a symbol of hope and inspiration for African-American leaders and young artists, many of whom visited him in Paris. On May 25, 1937, Tanner died at his home in Paris.
 

1. The Young Sabot Maker, 1895Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Young Sabot Maker, 1895

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Abraham's Oak, 1905Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Abraham's Oak, 1905

Image Source: Flickr

3. The Seine, c. 1902Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Seine, c. 1902

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related: Robert S. Duncanson’s Landscape Art Was Truly Enchanting

4. Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, 1909Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, 1909

Image Source: Flickr

5. Gateway, Tangier, 1912Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner,  Gateway, Tangier, 1912

Image Source: Wikipedia

6. Sodom and Gomorrha, 1920Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Sodom and Gomorrha, 1920

Image Source: Wikipedia

Related: Top 16 Paintings Inspired by the Bible

7. Spinning By Firelight, 1894
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Spinning By Firelight, 1894

Image Source: Wikipedia

8. The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water, c. 1907
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water, c. 1907

Image Source: Wikipedia

9. Daniel in the Lions' Den, 1907–1918
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Daniel in the Lions' Den, 1907–1918

Image Source: Wikipedia

10. Coastal Landscape, France, 1919
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner,  Coastal Landscape, France, 1919

Image Source: Wikipedia

Related: Landscape Artists and Their Masterpieces

11. Jesus and Nicodemus, 1899
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jesus and Nicodemus, 1899

Image Source: Wikipedia

12. Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, c. 1885Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, c. 1885

Image Source: Wikipedia

13. Mary, 1914
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Mary, 1914

Image Source: Wikipedia

14. View of the Seine, looking toward Notre Dame, 1896
Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner, View of the Seine, looking toward Notre Dame, 1896

Image Source: Wikipedia

15. The Banjo Lesson, 1893Remarkable Life and Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner The Banjo Lesson, 1893

Image Source: Wikipedia

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