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Meet The Masters: Henry Ossawa Tanner

Meet The Masters: Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner was our first African-American distinguished painter to gain international recognition. Tanner was born on June 21, 1859, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Benjamin Tucker and Sarah Miller Tanner. His father was an educated man and later would become a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church. His mother manage to escape the horrors of slavery by means of the Underground Railroad. In a time in America when slavery was still the norm, young Tanner was bitten by the art bug at the age of 13 by his fascination with thePhiladelphia art galleries. However, wanting to be an artist was just unheard of, being it was hard enough just being African-Amercian in a racialist society.

Despite any setbacks, his mind was made up to become an artist. At the age of twenty-one, he enrolled in the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. There he was able to study under a group of master professors. Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins would become one of Tanner’s greatest early influences. Thomas Eakins was a Pennsylvania native of English and Dutch descent that was an alumni and now a professor of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Eakins was a Realist style painter that was heavily influenced by his time in Paris under the instruction of French Masters Jean-Leon Gerome and Leon Bonnat. Between the two masters, they have a super list of pupils: Charles Sprague Pearce, George Bridgman, Mary Cassatt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Singer Sargent, Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Peel, Edvard Munch, Pierre Emmanuel Damoye and Walter Gay to name a few.

This steeped rich art history was being imprinted on the mind of young Tanner. Eakins suggested that Tanner go to France to farther his art career. When Tanner arrived in France there were a lot of artistic circles to choose from. Gustave Moreau had become the professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, Fauvist Henri Matisse was studying at the Académie Julian and became a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Vincent van Gogh had just passed away and within six weeks his brother Theo van Gogh would organize his last exhibition and would pass away barely half a year later, Post Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin creates a copy of Olympia by Édouard Manet and French Impressionist Claude Monet creates his Haystacks series. Tanner wasting no time enrolled in the Académie Julian where he studied under Jean Paul Laurens and Jean Joseph Benjamin-Constant. At this time in his life, he would start to create some of the most important works depicting African-American subjects. A subject that many painters dabbled in but never committed to. Tanner would take the style and run with it creating works like the Thankful Poor, Spinning by Firelight, Bois d’Amour, The Bagpipe Lesson and The Bagpipe Player. He would first draw a series of studies sometimes from magazines like Harper’s Young People magazine, which he used to create The Banjo Lesson painting. Around 1895 Tanner painted Daniel in the Lion’s Den, which earned him an honorable mention in the Paris Salon. He was now going down a different path, the road of religious paintings and landscapes. The more he painted, the more the world noticed and rewarded him for it. He painted the Resurrection of Lazarus and it was purchased by the French government and exhibited at the Luxembourg Gallery, eventually it found a home in the Louvre collection. Henry Ossawa Tanner was now a fully international acclaimed artist in the eyes of the art world. The French called him Monsieur Tanner and treated him with respect and as a follow contemporary whenever they saw or wrote about him, while back home in America they called him a negro artist. Tanner would spend the rest of his life in France painting award-winning and influential artworks and will be forever known as the first African American international acclaimed artist.

The master realist oil painter Henry Ossawa Tanner died in Paris, France in 1937 leaving behind somewhere around 159 master artwork in private and museums collections all over the world as well as the spark of the African-Amercian style (later called Black Art) for many African-Amercian artists to adopt. 

Meet The Masters: Henry Ossawa Tanner

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5 Things Every New Collector Needs to Know

5 Things Every New Collector Needs to Know

Art collecting can be called an art onto its self, and I should say there is no right way to buy art! Art is a personal thing and you should always buy what you fall in love with or what excites you. Yes, there are many styles, names, trends and some art goes up faster than others. Art can be very trendy and people may be talking about this artist more than that one. But somewhere between fine wine and investments is where you can find fine art.

Art As An Investment

The basics of art as an investment is that you purchase a piece of art that you’re passionate about and in time the artist, gallery, or art house start selling that artist’s artwork for more than what you paid for it. Voila! you now have equity in your piece of art, keeping in mind there are many factors to how fast the equity grows and demand for that particular artist. A friend of mine sometimes uses her collection as currency, trading artworks for other things she needs. She has used this method to buy cars, pay bills and dinner. The real value in art is finding other people that are as passionate about that artist as you are. Because of this, if you own the right pieces of art it can be leveraged by sharing it with the world. Corporations, museums and traveling exhibitions lease these kinds of artworks all the time which provide income for the owners. But If you want a guarantee on your art buying… then I suggest you buy art for love, you’ll always get your value out of it.

Do Your Research

Spend some time learning about the artwork and the artist because trends and popularity can both be misleading. Whenever possible, buy art in person and even better meet with the artist. Ask them about the series if it is in one, ask what is the size of it and if they plan on continuing the series. At some point, you may plan to buy another artwork and it would be good to know if there will be more in that style. If you have the pleasure of talking to the artist, try to find out if they do art fulltime, where they will be showing next and what projects are coming up next. A lot of artists do studio sales, that help control their inventory, sale one-off pieces, and earn them additional income. Knowing when these artists are having their studio sales can normally save you a lot of cash, plus you get to hang-out in the studio. Research can be a collector’s best friend.

Collect with a Focus

This is a hard one for new collectors because they have not set any parameters yet. You do not need to limit yourself to just one type of work. Focus on a style or two or three styles, this will really help you build a great collection. This type of collecting helps to make it easier for identifying the kinds of works you want to purchase.

Proper Title Transfer

Any reputable art dealer or gallery should provide you with things like the provenance, condition, artist information with signature, history and edition numbers.

Documentation Is King

As a collector, you need to have all the documentation for your collection. Because anyone that needs to evaluate your collection must have a very thorough understanding of all the pieces. From your very first artwork you purchase, start a list of all the works, descriptions, invoices of sale prices, the purchase dates, and subsequent appraisal prices. It’s a good practice and will save you so many headaches in the future.

One of the simplest ways to learn more about an artwork or an artist is to ask questions, have fun and happy collecting.