WINSTON-SALEM, NC.- Reynolda House Museum of American Art
will host the first in a series of three lectures about the art and artists in the museum's new exhibition, "American Impressions: Selections from the National Academy Museum" on Tuesday, March 10 at 5:30 p.m.
"Painting in the Lion's Den: The Spiritual Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner" is the title of the talk by guest lecturer Marcus Bruce, professor and chair of the religious studies department at Bates College. He will discuss the biblical scenes and religious imagery that so absorbed this great 19th century African-American artist.
Tanner's painting, "The Miraculous Haul of Fishes," circa 1913–14 can be seen in the "American Impressions" exhibition, on view through June 28.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1859, Tanner was the son of a college-educated teacher and minister who eventually settled in Philadelphia with his wife. Their son's interest in art was stimulated by his study with local art teachers and exposure to numerous art galleries. At 21, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied with a group of master painters, including Thomas Eakins. Prior to graduation, Tanner left the Academy to move to Atlanta. He opened a shop to sell his drawings and photographs and also taught art classes at Clark College. While in Atlanta, Tanner met Bishop and Mrs. Joseph Crane Hartzell, who became his primary patrons. When a show of his work sold no paintings, they purchased his entire collection, the proceeds of which sponsored his trip to Europe, where he settled in Paris.
At first, Tanner painted genre scenes of African-American or French subjects. The best-known work from that period is "The Banjo Lesson," 1893. Later works focused on biblical scenes and earned him recognition in the Paris Salon. He made several trips to the Holy Land, and his painting, "Resurrection of Lazarus" was purchased by the French government for exhibition, ultimately entering the collection at the Louvre.
Over the years Tanner divided his time between France and the United States, but when he married in 1899 he settled permanently in France. Tanner was made an honorary chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honor, France's highest honor, in 1923, and in 1927 he became the first African-American full academician of the National Academy of Design in New York. With his many honors, Tanner was a symbol of hope to other young African-American leaders and artists who often visited him in Paris.