Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit

Exhibition Info
Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building
Curated by
Anna O. Marley, Curator of Historical American Art
Henry O. Tanner's greatest works together for the first time in a generation

Recognized as the patriarch of African American artists, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) forged a path to international success, powerfully influencing younger black artists who came after him. 

Modern Spirit explores the many facets of the life and career of artist Henry Ossawa Tanner, 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 studied at PAFA from 1879 to 1885, and we are proud to have organized this exhibition, which elevates Tanner’s reputation through new scholarship and to bring his greatest works together for the first time in a generation.

Exhibition Tour Dates

Cincinnati Art Museum May 26–September 9, 2012
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston October 21, 2012–January 13, 2013

Related Programming

  • 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.

Installation Views

Installation view of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, 2012
Installation view of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, 2012
Installation view of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, 2012
Installation view of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, 2012

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