Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was an American painter and the first African-American artist to gain international acclaim. He is known for his remarkable talent in depicting biblical and religious subjects, as well as his landscapes and portraits. Tanner was born on June 21, 1859, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He displayed artistic talent from an early age and received encouragement from his father, who was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1879, Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he faced racial discrimination but persevered and honed his skills.

In the 1890s, Tanner moved to France, where he found a more accepting environment for his art. He settled in Paris and became associated with the artistic community there. Tanner’s time in France had a significant influence on his style and subject matter. He was inspired by European art traditions and also drew inspiration from his travels to North Africa and the Middle East. One of Tanner’s most famous works is “The Banjo Lesson” (1893), which depicts an elderly African-American man teaching a young boy how to play the banjo. This painting reflects Tanner’s interest in portraying everyday life and the dignity of African-Americans.

Tanner also gained recognition for his religious and biblical scenes. His most well-known religious painting is “The Resurrection of Lazarus” (1896), which captures the moment of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. Tanner’s religious paintings were highly regarded for their emotional depth and skillful use of light and shadow. Throughout his career, Tanner received numerous awards and accolades. He exhibited his works in prestigious galleries and had successful shows in the United States and Europe.

His accomplishments paved the way for future African-American artists, breaking down barriers and challenging racial stereotypes in the art world.

Henry Ossawa Tanner passed away on May 25, 1937, in Paris, France. His legacy as an influential African-American artist continues to inspire and resonate with art enthusiasts around the world.

Related posts

Theodore Sedgwick Wright


Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Montgomery Alabama

joe bodego

James F. Jones


The enslaved and Christianity