An introduction to African American painters and sculptors working in the nineteenth century, including Joshua Johnson, Robert Duncanson, Grafton Tyler Brown, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Edmonia Lewis, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Joshua Johnson • Son of a white man and black slave woman in Baltimore, Maryland • Father purchased him at age 19 in 1764 • Released on condition that he learned a trade (painting) • Manumission was signed by Colonel John Moale, who Johnson would paint • Learned to paint in a popular “folk” style • Left: Grace Allison McCurdy and Her Daughters, ca. 1806. Corcoran Gallery of Art
Joshua JohnsonMrs. John Moale (Ellin North) and Ellin North Moale, ca. 1798.The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
Robert S. Duncanson • Born free in 1821 in Fayette, New York • Family members were skilled house and sign painters • Moved to Cincinnati to “make it” as a fine artist • Abolitionists supported his painting landscapes
Robert S. DuncansonRobert S. Duncanson, View of Cincinnati, Ohio fromCovington, Kentucky, 1851. Cincinnati Historical Society.
Robert S. DuncansonFrederick Church, Heart of the Andes, 1859. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Robert S. DuncansonRobert S. Duncanson, Land of the Lotus Eaters, 1861. Royal Court ofSweden.
Robert S. DuncansonRobert S. Duncanson, Uncle Tom and Little Eva, 1853. Detroit Institute of the Arts.
Grafton Tyler Brown • First African American to chronicle the West • Born 1841 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania • Trained as a printer in Philadelphia • Moved to San Francisco around beginning of Civil War • Travelled and chronicled the West as printer and mapmaker • Painted landscapes in mid-1880s and ‘90s
Robert S. Duncanson, Uncle Tom and Little Eva, 1853. Detroit Institute of the Arts.
Grafton Tyler Brown, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Hayden Point, 1891.Oakland Museum.
Grafton Tyler Brown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, 1887. StarkMuseum of Art.
Edward Mitchell Bannister • Born 1827/1828 in New Brunswick, Canada • Self-taught as painter • Moved to Boston and worked in New England • In touch with contemporary art and poetry • Influenced by Barbizon School • Renowned for romantic rural scenes • Won first-prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 • Founded Providence Art Club in 1878
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Approaching Storm, 1886. Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Driving Home the Cows, 1881. SmithsonianAmerican Art Museum.
Jean-Francoise Millet, The Angelus, 1857-9. Musee d’Ordsay, Paris.
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Landscape Near Newport, R.I., 1877. SmithsonianAmerican Art Museum.
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Newspaper Boy, 1869. Smithsonian American ArtMuseum.
Edmonia Lewis • Born 1844 in Greenbush, New York from Hatian and Native American parents • Went to school at Oberlin • Achieved fame with portraits of anti- slavery heroes like John Brown and Colonel Shaw • First African American sculptor to achieve international recognition • Moved to Rome in 1866
Edmonia Lewis, Forever Free, 1866.Howard University Gallery of Art.• Sculpted after the Civil War• Classical sculpture in marble at a big scale taking on the subject of African American experience• Tackling formal problems of two figures in one work• Possible allusion to women’s liberation
Neo-classicism• A style inspired by ancient Greek and Roman models• 18th and 19th Century emphasis on enlightenment, reason and civic life Horatio Greenough, George Washington, 1840. National Museum of American History.
Edmonia Lewis, Hiawatha, 1866-7. Edmonia Lewis, The Wooing of Hiawatha, 1866.
Edmonia Lewis, The Death ofCleopatra, 1876. NationalMuseum of American Art.
William WetmoreStory, Cleopatra, 1869.Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Henry Ossawa Tanner • Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1859 • Mother had escaped slavery through Underground Railroad • Learned drawing and painting from life by Thomas Eakins at Pennsylvania Academy • Painted genre scenes of family life • Moved to France in 1891 • Began painting Biblical scenes • First African American elected to National Academy
Henry O. Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, 1893. Hampton University Art Collection.
Henry O. Tanner, The Thankful Poor, 1894. Collection of William H. and Camille Cosby.
Henry O. Tanner, The Resurrection of Lazarus, 1896. Musee d’Orsay.
Into the 20th CenturyOur Negro American painter of outstanding success is Henry O. Tanner. Hiscareer is a case in point. Though a professed painter of types, he has devotedhis art talent mainly to the portrayal of Jewish Biblical types andsubjects, and has never maturely touched the portrayal of the Negro subject.. . . We ought and must have a school of Negro art, a local and a raciallyrepresentative tradition. And that we have not, explains why the generationof Negro artists succeeding Mr. Tanner had only the inspiration of his greatsuccess to fire their ambitions, but not the guidance of a distinctive traditionto focus and direct their talents. Alain Locke, “The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts” (1925)