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Henry Ossawa Tanner Art Prints

Henry Ossawa Tanner(1859-1937) studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins. Eakins encouraged women and blacks to study art seriously at a time when professional careers were closed to them. African Americans were excluded from the arts before Emancipation, and after the Civil War, the situation improved very slowly and only marginally. At the end of the 19th century, most American artists were not taken completely seriously unless they had studied or traveled abroad in western Europe, particularly including a sojourn in Paris. In search of further training and more acceptance of his naturalistic painting style, Tanner moved to Paris in 1891. Here he assimilated aspects of the Impressionist style, such as looser brushwork and a focus on the effects of light. During a few years spent back in America due to illness, he applied the Impressionist techniques to the depiction of genre subjects featuring African Americans. "The Banjo Lesson" and "The Thankful Poor" are examples of this period of his work. Tanner stated in his writings at this time that he intended "to counter the comic stereotypes then common in American art and literature", and therefore chose to depict a more serious side of life. After returning to Paris in 1894, having never found monetary acceptance of his work amid the racism and aesthetic tastes of American society, he gave up these themes to pursue his goal of making his art serve religion. He never returned to his homeland.
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