The subject of this exhibition was the career and life of the artist Henry O. Tanner (1859-1937) - including the pioneering African-American artist’s upbringing in Philadelphia in the years after the Civil War; the artist’s success as an American expatriate artist at the highest levels of the international art world at the turn of the 20th century; his role as a leader of an artist’s colony in rural France; his unique contributions in aid of American servicemen to the Red Cross efforts in WWI France; his modernist invigoration of religious painting deeply rooted in his own faith; his depictions of the Holy Land and North Africa interpreted through comparison with contemporary French orientalist painting and photography; and the scientific and technical innovations of the Tanner's oeuvre.
Tanner was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) from 1879 to 1885. PAFA is proud to have organized this exhibition, and especially to elevate Tanner’s reputation through new scholarship and to bring his greatest works together for the first time in a generation.
After the PAFA presentation, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit went on tour, first to the Cincinnati Art Museum (May 26 - September 9, 2012) and then to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (October 21, 2012 - January 13, 2013).
Public programming for the exhibition included:
- The first-ever children’s book about Henry O. Tanner, published by PAFA, and written and illustrated by the renowned artist-author Faith Ringgold: Henry Ossawa Tanner: His Boyhood Dream Comes True
- A symposium held in Paris at the Musée d'Orsay on November 9-10, 2011
- The first technical study of Tanner’s experimentation with materials and methods, authored by Brian Baade and Amber Kerr-Allison. This technical study was conducted in partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lunder Conservation Center. For more information, click here.
This beautiful book presents a complex overview of the life and career of the pioneering African American artist Henry O. Tanner (1859–1937). Recognized as the patriarch of African American artists, Tanner forged a path to international success, powerfully influencing younger black artists who came after him. This book explores many facets of Tanner’s life, including his upbringing in post–Civil War Philadelphia, his background as the son of a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church, and his role as the first major academically trained African American artist. Edited and introduced by Anna O. Marley, this volume expands our understanding of Tanner’s place in art history, showing that his status as a painter was deeply influenced by his race but not decided by it.
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: Exploring the human endeavor. (Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition and publication do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.)
Leading support from the Mr. & Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc.
Major corporate support from PECO.
Participating support from Valentino D. Carlotti, the Edna W. Andrade Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, and the Philadelphia Foundation.
Media support provided by The Philadelphia Tribune. WHYY is a proud community partner.
PAFA's special exhibitions in 2011-12 are supported by generous contributions from Max N. Berry, Esq, Donald R. Caldwell, Jonathan L. Cohen, and Lori Levine Ordover and Janusz Ordover.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ public programs are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency).