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Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, 1859-1937)


Also known as:  Tanner, Henri Ossawa

Birth Place: Pittsburgh (Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, United States)

Acclaimed for his religious works, Tanner became known as one of the most foremost African-American artists. Numerous patrons allowed him to study abroad, as well as travel to Palestine to study the people and customs for use in his biblical paintings. His palette was deliberately limited and monochromatic, utilizing soft lighting and several layers of glazes.

A student of Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first African-American artist to gain international acclaim, later settling in Paris. His Daniel in the Lions Den received attention at the 1896 Paris Salon and launched his career as a painter of biblical themes. Tanner first painted in the Adirondacks from the late 1870s through the mid 1880s, on three different trips to Wardner's Rainbow Lake Inn, a sanatorium where he recovered from various illnesses. His pastoral images from this period, clustering farm boys and sheep in verdant meadows, exhibit the influence of Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer, as well as Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, whose paintings were on display at the inn. Once in Paris, Tanner began experimenting with the Post-Impressionist techniques of non-local color and independent line. Trips to Palestine and to North Africa from the 1890s-1910s further influenced his subject matter, lending an air of spirituality to his figural groupings and architectural studies.

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