"Portrait of Aaron Douglas" 1930 oil on canvas 32x 28"
Collection of the Gibbes Musuem
Edwin Harleston was born 1882 in Charleston, SC. He was not just a reknown painter but also a trusted leader within the community and civil rights activist. He was not just focused on the rights and freedoms his fellow African Americans but also the rights and equality of all people.
Harleston pursued his higher edjucation at the Avery Institute in Charlston were he graduated in 1900. Later he went on to Atlanta, Ga. where he studied at Howard University, there he switched over majors there he found his passion of painting. Next he ventured to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts where he honed his artistic skills, there he spent 6 years before returning back to his home town of Charleston, SC. In 1916 he founded the local chapter of the NAACP there.
He was best known for his portraiture and landscapes of the Charleston area. Harleston also received steady commissioned portraits through out his career. Where he painted from civil leaders and notibles of the community to portraits of average people, thus touching a wide range of life within his portrait work.
He passed away only at the age of 49. But what Harleston left behind with us was more than his stunning paintings, but also his legacy as a civil servant in the Charleston African American community.
Annie Anderson Walker is my first female post. Which extremely excited to introduce her to my follwers. She was born in 1855 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She lived and worked in the New York area for a short while before moving to Washington, D.C. where she met and feel in love and married lawyer Thomas Walker. Soon later they moved back to the New YorkCity, where she pursued her higher edjucation in the arts at the prestigous Cooper Union. After she finished her art schooling at Cooper Union in 1895. The following year in 1896 she was the first African American female artist to study abroad. She was encouraged by her professor Thomas Eakins who told her how his expupil Henry Osswa Tanner. Of his success and acceptance he was receiving abroad. And how it would be a much easier for her to make as an professional artist there. So she ventured to Paris. Where in 1896 she studied at the Acedeme' Julian for the next six years. There she excelled in drawing and where got some recognition for her portraiture. One of drawings "La Parisienne" was accepted by the Salon in 1896. Once returning to America she like a lot the African American Artist of that time struggled to find the same success and acceptance she received abroad. But she did maintain an income by teaching drawing classes until she passed.
Allan Crite was born in 1910 in New Jersey, his family relocated to Boston during his childhood. Crite showed real promise from an early age. He was encouraged to enroll at Chidren Art Centre there in Boston. In 1929 he graduated highschool. In 1930 he furthered his studies at the School of Boston Fine Arts where he graduated in 1936. During his final year schooling he was exhibiting professionally having showed at the Boston Society and the Harmond Foundation.
In 1940 he took a job at the Boston Naval Ship Yard where he worked as a engineering draftsman for the next thirty years.
His earlier paintings where neighborhood scenes of the Boston African American community and his work also touches on a spiritual nature by depicting religous scenes in the modern context of his day. Crite also created numerous liturical works for black churches. He also published two volumes his illustrations of negro spirtuals through Harvard Unirversity in the 1940's. His work also generally falls under American Realism.
Crite in 1968 later earned a B.A. at the Havard University extension school.
He died in 2007 in his hometown of Boston. Through his illustrious career he exhibited at Museum of Modern Art New York and Boston Museum of Fine Art. Leaving with us all his art work to enjoy and cherish.
Archibald Motley Jr. was born in 1891 in New Orleans. When he was just 2 years of age his family picked up and moved to Chicago.
In 1914 he attended college at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. During the early part of his career Motley did a series of work documenting racial catergories of women of mixed heritage, accepting the racial catergories of the day, documenting the physiognomic of women of mixed race ( dealing with the variety of color in African American skin tones).
Motley developed a strange logic to his approach, he would begin each painting with abstract pencil sketches. He thought every object in the picture plain should have a reason for being there. Nothing was left to chance in his work. By choosing to depict the modern black life of 1920's and 30's documenting the middle and upper class socialites, " The New Negro".He was also one the major contributers of the Harlem Renaisanse. He also delt with social dynamics and interacial issues with in African American Culture in his work. He always adhered to painting African American subject matter also validating negros in the western art tradition as an artist.
" Landscape with Poplars ( Afternoon at Montigony)" 1898 oil on canvas
William A. Harper ( 1873- 1910) was a Canadian born impressionist landscape painter. Harper born was in Cayuga, Canada but later moved to Chicago, Illinois while still a little boy. During that time having limited oppurtinities as an African American he took a job as a janitor at the Art Institue of Chicago where he saved enough to pursue higher education there. He enrolled in 1895 and then later graduated with honors. In 1903-05 he went went europe and studied at Academie Julian. In 1907 traveled traveled to Paris where studied with fellow African American painter Henry Osswa Tanner. He was the the recipient of many awards and honors like the Young Fortnightly Prize and Municipal Art League Prize. He passed away 1910 in Mexico City at the young age of 36, suddenly of turbulcoles.
John N. Robinson (1912- 1994) was born in 1912. He was known for his realistic paintings of urban landscapes, church murals, and portraits of family and friends. He was a primarily self taught art artist. Robinson did study briefly for a semester with artist James A Porter at Howard University 1929. From the 1930's Robinson worked as a full-time cook while supporting and raising his family of six, all the while pursuing his passion of painting. Through out his career he received awards and accolades for his work exhibiting in Negro and integrated exhibitions. Through his exhibitions he earned recognition for paintings through out the Washington D.C area. He still remains virtually overlooked in the art world outside of D.C. In 1994 he passed away at 82 years of age.
"My Dad" 1931 30x 24" oil on canvas, Collection of North Caroilina Central Unirversity Art Musuem
William Arthur Cooper ( 1895- 1974 ) was born North Carolina. He was a self taught painter, a minister and teacher. Cooper specialized in portraits. He received his religious schooling at National Religious Training School ( now North Carolina Central University) in Durham .
Cooper believed that the burlesque, sensationalized images American Negros, then was so so prevalent, were both cause and effect of poor race relations. A program of arts education combining realistic portraiture, sympathetic biography, and honest conversation, he argued, could Negros and whites imagined one another and thus ultimately how they interacted.
During the Depression Cooper painted a series of African American worthies and common folk. Cooper subjects where his native Carolinians. He strove to capture broader truths about contemporary Negro life. By refusing to paint Negros and southerns as gross caricatures and by rendering his friends, and neighbors at repose, he achieves a realism that was radical and documentary.
He lectured and displayed his work through out the 1930's. In 1936 he published a book of essays and portraits, A Portrail of Negro Life. The book embodied his ideals how through arts education might help interracial relations. He also received recognition and acclaim from his portraiture and organized the North Carolina's first African American art exhibition . Through out his career he remained true to his calling as a minister. He was a Pastor at the Clinton Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Charlotte, NC.
( this contain exerts from Alexander Byrd in To Conserve A Legacy )
"Full Moon, Haitian Rythym" 30 1/4x 24" oil on canvas
"Hiatian Fisherman at Dawn" 1931 13x 9" oil on wood
"Dr. Ulysses Grant Dailey" 1930 32x 20" oil canvas
William Edouard Scott was born in Indiapolis in 1884 where he lived til 1904. That year he decided move to Chicago to live and pursue higher education at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Later he had the chance to study abroad at the Acade'mie Julian and Acade'mie Calorassi where he was mentored by fellow African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner. In France he devolped his Impressionist sincibilties which he nurtured through out his career. After the accomulation years of schooling Scotts paintings were choosen in 1912-13 for the Paris Salon and at the Royal Academy of London.
In 1914 Scott returned home and began documenting the African American life in the south. In 1931 he later received a Rosenwald Foundation grant where he travel to Haiti to document people who kept strong ties too there african hertitage. By conscouisly depecting the Haitan life in uplifting way he pushed ahead for racial understanding through his work in his time. He humanized his subjects as strong independent people even though living in and under harsh conditions. He was extreme prolific during his time there producing over a hundred works in a little over a year there.
Scott was best known for his Haitian paintings, murals and portraits. He also by refusing to depict black life to elicit sympathy but to uphold them in high esteem was radical in his time. He passed in 1964 to diabetties in Chicago. He is now considered one of the important African American artist in his generation. His work now resides prestigous collections through out the world such as the Tate Gallery London, the Guggenheim New York andThe National Gallery Washington DC.
Hughie Lee-Smith 1970 "Confrontation" 33x 36 oil on canvas, Hunter Museum of Art
Hughie Lee-Smith was born Sept. 20, 1915 in Eustis, Florida, at the age of 10 he moved to Cleveland. There he took classes at Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Institute of Arts, he graduated with high honors and received a grant for post-graduate studies. He later attended John Huntington Polytechnic Institute, the Art Institute of the Detriot Society of the Arts and Crafts and recieved his Bachelor of Fine Art from Wayne State University in Detriot. After schooling he began to teach art and performed with an interracial dance company.
Lee- Smith also served in the Navy during World War II and there completed a mural entitled "The History of the Negro in the United States Navy". In his early work he reflected the social concerns of living in the 1930's during the Great Depression era.
In 1958 he decided moved to New York City where he taught at the Art Students League for the next 15 years. In 1963 he became a member of the National Academy of Design, only the second African American after Henry Ossawa Tanner.
For Lee-Smith early in his career his work can be classified as Social Realism. Later with he work was influenced by surrealism. And his paintings draw heavy comparrison to artist Georgio de Chirico.
During his long illustrative career he's received numerous honors and exhibited through out. Lee- Smith now has work in many major museums collections like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and many others. And his work is still highly sought after and collected .
He died Feb, 23 1999, of cancer in Albuquerque,New Mexico .
Portrait of Lizzie May Ulmer, 1876 27 1/8x 22"oil on canvas , Connecticut Historical Society
Portrait of Nehemiah Gibson, 1883 oil on canvas
Nelson A. Primus ( 1842-1916) was most known for his of portraits. He was born in Hatford, Connecticut and at age of 15 studied with portrait painter George Francis and later studied with Elizabeth Gilbert Jerome.
In 1864 he move to Boston where he lived and worked for the next 30 years. Here he did paintings of portraits and carriages, while gaining some praise and acclaim for his work. Sales were sporadic though, so to gain extra income he even worked as a books salesman.
In 1895 Primus left Boston and moved west to San Franciso. Here in painted and worked as a model at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. He found himself much in the same financial hardships as he was in Boston. Here he lived in the culturally rich Chinese community, were they helped and embraced him. Primus painted Chinatown scenes from this period during the gold rush. He died in 1916 in San Fransico of tuberculosis.
"Petunias", 18x24" oil on canvas "Peonies in a Bowl" 1885 21¼ x 29¼" oil on canvas, private collection
Charles Ethan Porter (1847-1923) was an still life painter. He was born in 1847 in Hartford, Connecticut. In his early childhood his family move to Rockville which is now apart of Vernon, Connecticut. Here he graduated from high school in 1865, and the next 2 years he studied at the Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Connecticut.
In 1871 Porter went on to study at the highly acclaimed New York's National Academy of Design. He supported in himself by teaching art while in school and completed his studies in 1873. That year he opened up a studio in the New York City and later continued his studies with artist Joseph Oriel Eaton the teacher of William Merit Chase.
In 1878 he moved back to Hartford where he lived worked as artist and opened up a studio. Several years later, when he traveled to Paris, he took with him a letter of recommendation from Mark Twain. In 1881 he enrolled himself in the Ecolede Arts Decoratifs. While his years in France he gathered more fundamentals to his already strong repertoire as an painter.
Upon returning to the U.S. he opened up a studio in New York City and two years later in 1887 moved back to Hartford. In 1889 Porter moved back to his childhood home of Rockville. Here he had studios in the Fitch Block and in a tower on Fox Hill. Toward the end of his life, his fortunes declined and he peddled his paintings door-to-door, trading them for food or flowers to paint. Charles Ethan Porter died in Rockville in 1923 almost forgotten, mainly because the racial climate of the time.
In recent years his paintings have been rediscovered and widely appreciated and is regarded as by many as a Master of still-life painting. Although he is mainly known his remarkable still-life's he also painted a hand full of landscapes.
Henry Ossawa Tanner "Raising of Lazarus" 1897, Musee' de Orsay Paris, France Henry Ossawa Tanner"The Seine" 1902 National Gallery of Art, Wash. D.C.
Well the "three" (as I dub them) Tanner, Bannister, and Duncanson. I call them that because in the way I personally learned about them. I got familiar with Tanner first in high school. Seeing the " The Banjo Lesson" in my first art history class back in the 11th grade. He is the primary figure in African American art of the late 19th and early 20th century. The other two I learned about in art books much later. Bannister, who I didn't realize he was black until I finally saw him in an African American Art book. Ducanson was the last one. All three are first in some regards in American art breaking down barriers for artist of color. Each opening the the door to some degree for the next, Duncansan to Bannister to Tanner...
Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was a minister at a African Methodist Church and this religious upbringing would have great impact on his work and his own strong personal beliefs. His mother was a private school teacher. He was also the eldest of nine children. He made the decision to become artist at the age of 13 when he saw a artist painting in the park by his home.
He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia under Thomas Eakins where he was the only African American. He maintained a relationship with Eakins through out his career and kept in contact with his fellow classmate Robert Henri, founder of the Ashcan school.
He struggled to find work and patrons in the United States and a later failed attempt to open a photography studio in Atlanta 1888, so in 1891 he left for Paris as a young man to escape racial prejudice and find success and acceptance. Soon after he started exhibiting in the Salon where he gained acclaim and 1897 he won the gold medal " Raising of Lazarus". He later went to Middle East to observe and study the environment from which his biblical subject matter derived.
He spent the rest his professional career in France. Tanner became an honorary Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honor, France's highest award of recognition. In 1927, he became the first African American full academician elected into the National Academy of Design in New York. He died in Paris on May 25 1937.
Edward Bannister "The Boat on the Sea"
Edward Bannister"Approaching Storm" 1886
Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901) was born in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. In the early 1850s, he moved to Boston, where he initially worked as a barber and later studied sculpture at the Lowell Institute. In 1867 He was fueled by comment made by the New York Herald stating "the Negro seems to have an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it " He soon became the first African American artist to receive a national award. In 1870, Bannister and his wife moved to Providence, Rhode Island. He was one of the three original founders of the Providence Art Club in 1878, which later inspired the Rhode Island School of Design; Bannister later became an instructor there.
Bannister’s painting encompasses aspects of nature in a naturalist manner. His work doesn't display the social or racial overtones that would characterize much of the work by African American artists who succeeded him. He is best known for his landscapes, but he also painted portraits. religious scenes, seascapes and still lifes. Bannister was known to be extremely critical of his own work and sometimes destroyed paintings that wasn't to his standard. However, he was a very prolific artist. He died in Providence in 1901 while attending a prayer meeting.
Robert S. Duncanson "Robbing the Eagles Nest" 1856
Robert S. Duncanson Landscape with Rainbow, 1859
Robert S Duncanson (1817 - 1872) he was born in New York, he was raised in Canada by his Scottish father . He moved back to the states to live with his mother in Ohio right outside of Cincinnati in the 1840's.
In his early career he was self-taught he learned by painting portraits and copying prints and was heavily influenced by the Hudson River School. He moved away form portraits to paint the landscape inspired by the prints in the journals of John Stevens and Frederick Catherwood, Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan. Later he received a commission by abolitionist Charles Avery his career as a landscape artist took off.
Duncanson received a grant from the Anti-Slavery League to study in Europe in 1853. He also was the first African American artist to receive international recognition. He traveled painted abroad during his time painting the Scottish, Canadian and English landscape. He work was well received abroad the London Art Journal called him a master of landscape painting. He Duncanson work was widely collected during his time and was highly collected by the Queen of England. He died Dec. 21 1872.
"Blood (Donald Formey)" (detail), 1975. Oil and acrylic on cotton canvas, 72 x 50 ½ inches. Collection of Dr. Kenneth Montague/The Wedge Collection
Last year I received a phone call from a good friend of mine who lives up in Philly. He was asking me have I heard of this black artist that's getting all this press now. My friend always one for a good art talk. I named off a couple, then I stumbled upon Hendricks not knowing his name at the time, but I described his work. About month before Adam called I ran across him in a couple art magazines that reviewed his traveling exhibition. I especially remember this photo self-portrait he took and being highly amused by it. After me and my friend talked painting mainly African American contemporary painters and the scene now. I went back to Barnes and Noble they still had the magazine, I wrote his name down and I looked Hendricks up to get more familiar with his work. I was really impressed with what I saw. His level detail is extraordinary. What I saw was highly executed portraits with solid background colors and some gold leaf. It was beautiful, his since of composition, I extremely enjoy the uncomfortable crops at times like in his painting "Vendetta". He executes in what I would call a classical/realist manner, but is sensibilities are very much modern.
Barkley L. Hendricks (born 1945, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a contemporary African American painter. Hendricks' is most known for his life-sized portraits. He earned his diploma at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and received both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Yale University. Currently, he serves as a art professor at Connecticut College. His work is on display in many public collections, including the National Gallery of Art, the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many more institutions.
Well about four years ago I had an idea of putting together an exhibition of African American Realist that work in various mediums and subject matter. My goal was to put out a voice that I thought was missing in American Art. Being that I would see an artist (strong African American realist) here and there, but I’ve never seen them come together really as a strong collective. My thinking was that as a collective we would have more of and impact and voice. But in typical fashion I never got the project off the ground. In my initial statement I referenced the three big African American Realist of the late 19th and early 20th century Tanner, Bannister and Duncanson, but outside of those three I really didn’t have jumping off spots (points of reference) at that particular time. Which later had me pondering. Where is my history as a painter (people that looked like me doing what I did)? Don’t get me wrong my all time favorite painters are Rembrandt, Sargeant, Degas and Velasquez in no particular order and Cézannes watercolors are the best thing since cornbread. But why wasn’t their a black Rembrandt or Sargeant? Are they hidden? The only thing I really remembered seeing was Tanners the “Banjo Lesson” in art history and one painting couldn’t hold my attention as well as 20 Sargeants. When I was younger I didn’t think about this issue too much it was all about who had the slickest brush strokes and thickest paint. But as I got older I did want see more of people that look like me that shared my language through out American Art. Now four years after my initial idea for the exhibition and about 17 years since my first art history class. I’m about to go on my own little journey and unearth the “umber”.
Well I’m thinking about starting with someone I didn’t know about. While I was at the library I stumbled upon Richard Mayhew. I wrote his name down, so could come home and do some more research. One of the first pieces I saw "Winter" was a beautiful landscape with more subdued naturalistic colors. I was like word, I hit the jackpot. Further looking him up on-line I ran across more landscapes and realized I was familiar with him and recently seen his paintings in an exhibit about a week ago. His newer work he uses much more rich vibrant impressionist colors. There strikingly brilliant and bold like a early Mondrian (ex. "Windmill in Sunlight") and also very atmospheric slightly reminiscent of Monet.
He as born in 1924 in Amityville, Long Island. His mother was half Cherokee and African American; his father was also half Native American and African American. While in his 20’s while living in New York City he worked as portrait painter, a jazz singer and also did medical illustrations while in school. He studied art at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, Pratt, Columbia University, Students League and Academia abroad in Florence Italy. He was also a founder the African American artist group “Spiral” along with artist Romare Bearden. It was an art group involved with the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, The Smithsonian, The Chicago Art institute and many other museums and private collections. Mayhew is one of the most sought after African American painters living.
With the strength of "Winter" I've decided to make an acception to my own rule, this once. But also knowing he painted portraits and did illustrations. I know theres more Naturalistic work Mayhew out there.
After doing the research on Richard Mayhew I decided to devote the blog soley to this personal project.
Well this is about new ... On the blog I'm going to document more process this go round and show stages of my paintings. Creation should be an adventure and journey, so I'm still going tell stories behind certain paintings when it applies.
I'm also going to include a post once every other week on a African American realist painter throughout art history, for my own personal knowledge and growth ( they only teach you about 2 or 3 in school). My goal is to unearth the other painters that weren't in the art history books. This part for me is going to be pretty exciting and I'm going to create a data base for the artist I research.
Burnt Umber: is both a pigment and colour. The medium brown pigment is made by heating umber, a dark brown clay containing oxides of iron and manganese.
This blog is derived from a line of thought I've had since artschool. It was something I saw or didn't see and wondered why. I'm no official art historian just a painter with an inquring mind and thirst for knowledge. This site isn't meant to seperate or segregate, but to celebrate a proud history of a much to often overlooked people.