Game Changers: The Art of Black History Highlights Henry Ossawa Tanner [VIDEO+PHOTO]

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If we’re talking about African-American artists then it’s only right we celebrate the first celebrity artist. Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first to gain international acclaim and he’s most known for his paintings and drawing. He belonged to the Harlem Renaissance Movement and his work focused on realism. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the name, you’ve probably seen some of his work before.

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We are continuing our celebration of Black History Month as we pay homage today to Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937). Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, and was the first African American to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He studied under Thomas Eakins and became one of his favorite students. Tanner later moved to France, where he found acceptance in the art world and a life with very little racism. He painted with both a loose and detailed style, often in the same work. His work includes figurative, religious and landscape pieces, all a true delight to behold. #henryossawatanner #africanamericanartist #blackhistorymonth #truth #artgram #artistsoninstagram #art #narrative #africanamericanart #educators4bhm #arthistory #afropolitan #thebanjolesson #paris #pennsylvaniaacademyofthefinearts #blackart #figurativeart #artislife

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He received training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, with the guidance of from Thomas Eakins, who is one of the most important artists in American history. Henry also studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, with French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme. During this time, it wasn’t common for African-Americans to get a higher education, or be working closely with people who aren’t black so this was a huge back then.

Henry was born in Pittsburgh in 1859 but spent most of his adult life in France. His mother was born a slave and escaped through the Underground Railroad. He became well known for his lush biblical paintings, The Banjo Lesson is his most famous work. It’s an illustration of an elderly man teaching a young boy how to play the banjo, “accompanied a short story by Ruth McEnery Stuart called ‘Uncle Tim’s Compromise on Christmas,’ in which the titular character imparts his most prized possession, a banjo, to his grandson on Christmas morning.” Much of his work is showcased around museums all over the world.