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Fri, 12.22.1905

James A. Porter, Artist, and Historian born

James A. Porter

James A. Porter was born on this date in 1905. He was a Black painter and art historian, instrumental in the development of the scholarly study of African American art.

Raised in Baltimore, MD, James Amos Porter studied art at Howard University, graduating in 1927.  He joined the Howard faculty that same year as a drawing and painting instructor and remained a professor there until the end of his life. The first exhibition of one of Porter's paintings was in 1928. Group and solo exhibitions followed in the United States and abroad. As an artist, Porter was best known for his portraits, including the prize-winning "Woman Holding a Jug." Porter made his most lasting mark, however, as a historian and scholar of African American art.

His landmark study, "Modern Negro Art," published in 1943, remains a foundational text. Porter gave generous attention to his contemporaries in paintings and sculptures and helped legitimize their contributions to American art by examining their artistic styles. Called the “father of African American art history,” James Porter had the ability to combine teaching and writing with the production of art. He honed his skill as a draftsman rendering, fine portraits, and figure studies with the precision of a surgeon.

His drawings reveal academic tradition and a patient capacity for detail. James Amos Porter died on the last day of February 1970.

To be an Artist



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

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