This beautiful book, companion publication to the exhibition of the same name, presents a complex overview of the life and career of the pioneering African American artist Henry O. Tanner (1859–1937). Recognized as the patriarch of African American artists, Tanner forged a path to international success, powerfully influencing younger black artists who came after him. Following a preface by David Driskell, the essays in this book—written by international scholars including Alan Braddock, Michael Leja, Jean-Claude Lesage, Richard Powell, Marc Simpson, Tyler Stovall, and Hélène Valance—explore many facets of Tanner’s life, including his upbringing in post–Civil War Philadelphia, his background as the son of a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church, and his role as the first major academically trained African American artist. Additional essays discuss Tanner’s expatriate life in France, his depictions of the Holy Land and North Africa, and the scientific and technical innovations reflected in his oeuvre. Edited and introduced by Anna O. Marley, this volume expands our understanding of Tanner’s place in art history, showing that his status as a painter was deeply influenced by his race but not decided by it.
Contributors: Brian Baade, Alan Braddock, Marcus Bruce, Adrienne L. Childs, Robert Cozzolino, David Driskell, Amber Kerr-Allison, Michael Leja, Jean-Claude Lesage, Anna O. Marley, Olivier Meslay, Richard Powell, Marc Simpson, Tyler Stovall, Hélène Valance
Anna O. Marley is Curator of Historical American Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
“This son of a former slave and a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church became a role model for a generation of black American artists who began to assert themselves after World War I, especially during the Harlem Renaissance. What he achieved was remarkable.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“The most substantial scholarly catalogue to date on Tanner’s life and work.”—Digital Journal
“This splendid catalogue . . . takes Tanner on his own terms.”—Christianity Today/ Books & Culture
“The most substantial scholarly catalogue to date on Tanner’s life and work.”—Artdaily.org
“A fresh look at [Henry Ossawa Tanner’s] remarkable career and oeuvre.”—Stephen May Antiques And The Arts Weekly
“As Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit and its remarkably broad and enlightening catalog demonstrate, labeling or confining Tanner is as impossible now as it was when he was alive. . . . Viewers of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit will be shepherded towards a whole new appreciation not only of this great artist, but also of how we view difference itself.”—Bob Duggan Big Think
“This book constitutes a very welcome contribution to the public appreciation and scholarly study of Henry Ossawa Tanner, a painter of considerable significance in both Europe and America, and one whose religious imagery merits careful consideration. These well-researched essays by an international team of scholars offer substantial reflections on complex issues of race and religion, and situate the artist’s work and career within the context of his life and times. This is a robust framing of Tanner as a cultural phenomenon and one that readers will find quite rewarding.”—David Morgan, Professor of Religion at Duke University and author of The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling
“Henry Ossawa Tanner has finally been recognized as an important artist in the last twenty years, and is now firmly part of the American canon as the first major African American painter to emerge from the academy. This book enriches our understanding of Tanner’s historic place in American art by considering his work as an early modernist religious artist—a status entwined with his race, but not defined by it. These essays, by an impressive collection of scholars, are full of substantially new material, and succeed in broadening our conception of Tanner’s life and work.”—Bruce Robertson, Professor of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara.