PAFA to Mount Definitive Exhibition on Preeminent African-American Artist

PHILADELPHIA – A major exhibition of artwork by African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner will premiere at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), on view from January 27 through April 15, 2012. Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit will contain over 100 works, including 12 paintings that have never been shown in a Tanner retrospective and the only two known sculptures that Tanner completed. The exhibition also includes Tanner's famed Resurrection of Lazarus, from the collection of the Musée d'Orsay, a career-making canvas that earned Tanner his first international praise when it was exhibited in 1897 and which has never crossed the Atlantic.

Showcasing Tanner’s paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, watercolors, and drawings, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit is being organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where the artist studied from 1879 to 1885, and will tour to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Henry O. Tanner is a transcendent figure both in art and in the history of America," remarks Harry Philbrick, Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum. "His compelling story and rich body of work will make for a superb national traveling exhibition."

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit will delve into the life and career of Henry O. Tanner from his upbringing in Philadelphia in the years after the Civil War; through the artist’s training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; his success as an American artist at the highest levels of the international art world at the turn of the 20th century; his role as an elected leader of an artist’s colony in rural France; his unique contributions in aid of servicemen during World War I through the Red Cross in France; his modernist invigoration of religious painting deeply rooted in his own faith; and Tanner’s depiction of the Holy Land and North Africa. The exhibition will also present the first scientific and technical analysis of his artistic materials and methods.

“This exhibition will allow visitors to walk alongside Tanner as he explored the world, leaving Philadelphia for the mountains of North Carolina and bustling Reconstruction-era Atlanta, to the bright lights of Paris and the exotic and spiritual landscapes of Palestine and Egypt,” says Anna O. Marley, PAFA’s Curator of Historical American Art. “Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit reveals the artist as a talented modern man whose training, intelligence and faith equipped him to surmount the difficult realities of his time and propelled him into a lifetime journey of personal and artistic discovery.”

The most substantial scholarly catalogue to date on Tanner’s life and work will accompany the exhibition. This book includes 14 essays written by established and emerging scholars from the United States and France, and is being published by University of California Press.

Additionally, the first-ever children’s book about Henry O. Tanner will be published by PAFA and Bunker Hill Press. Written and illustrated by the renowned artist-author Faith Ringgold, this publication will inspire generations of young people through the extraordinary accomplishments of Tanner.

"PAFA is proud to have contributed to Tanner's artistic training, that it maintained a mutually productive relationship with the artist throughout his life, and that we are now able to introduce his inspirational accomplishments to a new generation of viewers," says David R. Brigham, PAFA’s President & CEO.

After premiering at PAFA, the show will travel to the Cincinnati Art Museum, from May 26 - September 9, 2012, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, from October 14, 2012 - January 6, 2013. Curator of the exhibition, Anna Marley, is currently co-organizing a scholarly symposium on Tanner and African American Art in France, to be held at the Musée d’Orsay, November 9-10, 2011. Exciting education and community events will occur at PAFA throughout the run of the exhibition, including a Community and Scholars Day, March 4-5, 2012, and free admission on Sundays while the exhibition is on view.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit is organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Presenting Philadelphia Area Sponsor: Exelon Foundation.Presenting Foundation sponsors: The Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Henry Luce Foundation. This exhibition has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom. Leading support from the Mr. & Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc. Major corporate support from PECO. Participating support from the Edna W. Andrade Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition and publication do notnecessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America's first school of fine arts and museum.  A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts presented by the President of the United States, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education. Nearly every major American artist has taught, studied, or exhibited at the Academy. The institution's world-class collection of American art continues to grow and provides what only a few other art institutions in the world offer: the rare combination of an outstanding museum and an extraordinary faculty known for its commitment to students and for the stature and quality of its artistic work.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Academy is located at 118-128 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia. Admission to the Permanent Collection is Adults $10, Seniors (60+) & Students with I.D. $8, Youth ages 13-18, $8. Admission to Special Exhibitions (includes Permanent Collection) is Adults $15, Seniors (60+) & Students with I.D. $12, Youth Ages 13-18, $12. Admission is free for members and children under age of 12. Admission to Morris Gallery exhibitions is free.