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Tue, 06.21.1859

Henry O. Tanner, Artist born

Henry Tanner

Henry Tanner was born on this date in 1859.  He was a Black painting artist.

Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and many of the Bible stories he heard as a youth were later portrayed in his paintings.  In 1879, he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, becoming the second black student to attend America's oldest art school.

Tanner traveled to Europe in 1891 and lived permanently in France after 1894. He submitted “Daniel in the Lions’ Den” to the Paris Salon Exhibition of 1896 and received an honorable mention, an honor no other American received that year.  His religious works brought Tanner recognition in both France and America.

Tanner was elected a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government in 1923, and in 1927 he was also elected a full member of the National Academy of Design in New York.  Henry Tanner, known for his paintings of everyday Black life and his scenes from the Bible, died on May 25, 1937.

In 1996, Tanner's “Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City” was acquired for the art collection of the White House in Washington, D.C.; it was the first work by an African American painter to be chosen for this collection.  His best-known work, “The Banjo Lesson,” illustrates his mastery of genre painting.

To be an Artist


The St. James Guide to Black Artist
Edited by Thomas Riggs
Copyright 1997, St. James Press, Detroit, MI
ISBN 1-55862-220-9

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