Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The 3

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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Barkley L. Hendricks

"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.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Richard Mayhew


Richard Mayhew "Winter" 1960 oil on canvas

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 C├ęzannes 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.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

3rd times a charm

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.