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Henry Ossawa Tanner

Simona Gocan

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Artist Biography

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Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry O. Tanner (1859-1937) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At age seventeen, Tanner toured the 1876 Centennial Art exhibition in Philadelphia. He saw the art, prints and posters of British, French, Italian, and Middle Eastern painters. At this exhibition he also came across the works of fellow African American artists, Edmonia Lewis and Edward Bannister. At age twenty-one, Tanner entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Here he was able to gain the necessary rudiments for his future artistic development.

Tanner discovered early on in his career that an artist had to sell his creations in order to live. He therefore created art, prints and posters specifically for sale in the book and magazine market. By 1889, Tanner had moved to Atlanta, Georgia and opened his own photography studio. Within one year, the studio was a failure, and he took a job as the first art instructor at Clark University in Atlanta. During his career Tanner gained inspiration in his travels abroad. He was so inspired by France that he spent that latter part of his life living in Paris.

Tannerís art, prints and posters won him hundreds of world prizes and honors. His works were sought after and shown at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Luxembourg Museum, and the Louvre. He was one of Americaís first African American painters to be exhibited in the London Exhibit of 1914, which featured the works of distinguished American artists such as West, Stuart, Whistler, and Homer. Tanner had established himself as an artist among artists. W.E.B. Dubois called him the "Dean" of American black artists in his Crisis Magazine.

Henry Ossawa Tanner Art, Prints and Posters Collection