Tanner, Henry Ossawa

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

Artist and painter

The first African-American artist to win international acclaim for his paintings, Henry Ossawa Tanner began his career studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia under the direction of the great American realist painter, Thomas Eakins. Tanner's work included biblical, landscape, and genre subjects; his early work portrayed the ordinary lives of African Americans, exemplified by two noted works, The Banjo Lesson, and The Thankful Poor.
His awards include Philadelphia's Walter Lippincott Award, second medal from the Paris Exposition of 1900, and the gold medal from the San Francisco Exposition of 1915. Among the museums where Tanner's work is on display are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Philadelphia's Memorial Hall. His religious paintings are among his best known works, and include Daniel in the Lion s Den and Christ Learning to Read.

(From: Blockson, Charles L. Philadelphia's Guide: African-American State Historical Markers. Philadelphia: Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection / William Penn Foundation, 1992.)