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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Henry Ossawa Tanner
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Excerpt from Museum of Fine Arts, Houston:


Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit
Oct 21, 2012 - Jan 13, 2013
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


About the exhibition

This major exhibition delves into the life and career of African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937). The son of a former slave, Tanner trained in Philadelphia under American artist Thomas Eakins and went on to achieve international success. A survey of more than 100 works, Modern Spirit includes 12 paintings that have never been shown in a Tanner retrospective, as well as the only two known sculptures that Tanner completed. Also featured is the artist’s famed Resurrection of Lazarus, a career-making canvas on loan from the collection of the Musée dOrsay that earned Tanner his first international praise in 1897. The painting had never crossed the Atlantic before this exhibition, which concludes its U.S. tour at the MFAH.

Modern Spirit follows Tanner’s journey from his upbringing and training in Philadelphia after the Civil War to Paris, where he joined the expatriate community of artists in the late 19th century, showing frequently at the Paris Salon and mentoring other African American artists, to his success at the highest levels of the international art world at the turn of the 20th century. The story continues with Tanner’s unique contributions in aid of servicemen during World War I through the Red Cross in France his Modernist invigoration of religious painting deeply rooted in his own faith and his depictions of the Holy Land and North Africa. The exhibition also presents the first scientific and technical analysis of Tanner’s artistic materials and methods.

Accompanying the show is the most substantial scholarly catalogue to date on Tanner’s life and work. The book includes 14 essays written by scholars from the United States and France.

This exhibition is organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. Exhibition 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. Leading support from the Mr. & Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition and publication do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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Henry Ossawa Tanner, American (1859-1937)
b. June 21, 1859, Pittsburgh, PA
d. 1937


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