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Thu, 11.02.1826

Edward Bannister, Artist who won national recognition

Edward Bannister

This date celebrates the birth of Edward Bannister, a Black artist born in 1826.

Edward Mitchell Bannister was the first of two sons born to Edward and Hannah Alexander Bannister in St Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. He moved to New England in the late 1840s, where he remained for the rest of his life.

His mother, who died when he was 18, encouraged his love of drawing. He settled in Boston in 1848, laboring at menial jobs before he learned the skilled trades of barbering and women's hair styling. He also began to study painting at the Boston Studio Building and the Lowell Institute.  There he became skilled at tinting photographs and worked at this trade for a year in New York.

In 1857, Bannister married Christiana B. Carteaux, from Rhode Island. He shared a studio and participated in group exhibitions at the Boston Art Club and Museum, presenting works of biblical themes, portraits, landscapes and seascapes, and genre scenes.  Most of these early works are now lost, and known only from written descriptions. In 1870, the Bannisters moved to Providence, where they quickly and easily fit into artistic and professional circles. In 1876, Bannister's painting, "Under the Oaks," took the first prize medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, although the judges tried to withhold the award when they discovered he was Black. The painting has since been lost, along with the sketches for it and the medal.

Among Bannister's later works are "Moon Over a Harbor" "Newspaper Boy," "Oak Trees," "Approaching Storm," "Sabin Point," and "Narragansett Bay." His works are currently held at Brown University, the National Museum of American Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Bannister was one of the first Blacks to receive national recognition as a painter, and was the only major Black artist of the 19th century who did not travel to Europe to study art.

A History of African American Artist from 1792 to the Present
by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson
Copyright 1993 by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson
Pantheon Books, NY
ISBN 0-394-57016-2

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