Working in Paris, Henry Ossawa Tanner grounded his portrayal of a biblical scene in the thoughtful, individual expressions of the figures. The Two Disciples at the Tomb depicts an event from the Gospel of Saint John in which Peter and John arrive at Christ’s empty tomb. The bearded Peter looks downward with a somber gaze, but John appears transfixed, his face bathed in a golden light that signifies the presence of Christ’s spirit.
The son of a prominent minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Tanner was perhaps the most renowned American painter of religious works at the turn of the 20th century. After studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Tanner expatriated to France in 1891 in an effort to escape the trenchant racism that limited his career in the United States.
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“Award For Negro Artist,” The Washington Post, Oct. 18, 1906, 1.
“Sales,” American Art News 5, no. 1 (Oct. 20, 1906): 1.
“Chicago Art News,” American Art News 5, no. 2 (Oct. 27, 1906): 2.
“Tanner’s Bible Pictures on View,” The Advocate (Charleston, West Virginia), Dec. 31, 1908, 6.
“Exhibition of American Paintings in Texas,” Art and Progress 1, no. 3 (Jan. 1910): 75.
“The Stickney Benefactions,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 3, no. 3 (Jan. 1910): 34.
“Henry O. Tanner’s Biblical Pictures,” Fine Arts Journal 24, no. 3 (Mar. 1911): 162 (ill.).
“Art Works Reproduced: Tanner Collection Exhibited at M Street High School,” The Washington Herald, Mar. 30, 1911.
“Notes,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 7, no. 4 (Apr. 1914): 64.
“Again-A Free Ad for the Art Institute,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 10, 1915, B9.
Karen Fisk, “The Annual American Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago,” The American Magazine of Art 17, no. 12 (Dec. 1926): 624–25.
Frederic J. Haskin, “Answers to Questions,” The Evening Star (Washington, DC), May 25, 1938, A-10.
Albert G. Barnett, “Paintings Now Hang Among World Famous Collection At A Century of Progress,” The Chicago Defender, Sept. 2, 1963: 16 (ill.).
Marcia M. Mathews, “Henry Ossawa Tanner, American Artist,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 65 (1966): 464 (ill.), 468.
Charles H. Wesley, “Henry O. Tanner The Artist,” Negro History Bulletin 31, no. 1 (Jan. 1968): 10.
Marcia M. Mathews, Henry Ossawa Tanner: American Artist, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969, 130–31, 238.
Marcia M. Mathews, “The Art of Henry O. Tanner,” Records of the Columbia Historical Society 69/70 (1969/1970): 454 (ill.).
Henry J. Seldis, “‘Black American Art’: Crossing the Color Line,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 10, 1976, 64.
Albert Boime, “Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Subversion of Genre,” The Art Bulletin 75, no. 3 (1993): 440, fig. 27 (ill.).
Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson, A History of African-American Artists From 1792 to the Present, New York: Pantheon Books, 1993, 98, 99 (ill.).
Marcia M. Mathews, Henry Ossawa Tanner: American Artist, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994, 131, 132, 238 (ill.).
Anne Rorimer, “The Display of Twentieth-Century Art. Chicago, Art Institute,” The Burlington Magazine, Sept. 1994, 645.
Susan F. Rossen, “Introduction,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), 141.
Andrea D. Barnwell, Kirsten P. Buick, Margaret Denny, Martin Fox, Jennifer Jankauskas, Dennis A. Narowcki, Mark Pascale, Kymberly N. Pinder, and Andrew J. Walker, “A Portfolio of Works by African American Artists Continuing the Dialogue: A Work in Progress,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, no. 2 (1999): 186, 190.
Lisa Meyerowitz, “The Negro in Art Week: Defining the “New Negro” Through Art Exhibition,” African American Review 31, no. 1 (1997): 88, n. 13.
“Americas Art Museums and the Broad Canvas of American Racial Thought,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 16 (1997): 49.
Alan G. Artner, “More than a Century of Collecting: African-American Artists Richly Covered at Institute,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 27, 2003, ill.
Susanna W. Gold, “Review Essay: Modern Spirit,” Modernism/modernity 19, no. 3 (2012): 603.
Kimberly Laurren Glenn, “Chicago and the Visual Art of the ‘New Negro Movement,’ 1925–1940” (PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2013), 94.
Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago: Highlights of the Collection (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017), 90.
Jo-Ann Morgan, “Review of “Beholding Christ and Christianity in African American Art” by James Romaine and Phoebe Wolfskill,” Caa.reviews, May 2, 2018, http://www.caareviews.org/reviews/3356.
Art Institute of Chicago, Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Sculpture by American Artists, Oct. 16–Nov. 29, 1906, cat. 295.
New York, American Art Galleries, Religious Paintings by the Distinguished American Artist Mr. Henry O. Tanner, Dec. 15–25, 1908, cat. 10.
Texas, Public Library of Fort Worth, Exhibition of American Paintings, 1910, no cat.
Art Institute of Chicago, Half a Century of American Art, Nov. 16, 1939–Jan. 7, 1940, cat. 160, pl. IX (ill.).
Chicago, South Side Community Art Center, We Too Look at America, May 1941, cat. 25.
Chicago, McCormick Place, Century of Negro Progress Exposition, Aug. 16–Sept. 2, 1963, no cat. no.
Washington, DC, Howard University, Ten Afro-American Artists of the Nineteenth Century, Feb. 3–Mar. 30, 1967, no cat. no., 23, 32 (ill.).
New York, Grand Central Art Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings: Henry Ossawa Tanner, Nov. 16–Dec. 7, 1967, no cat. no. (ill.).
Atlanta, Spelman College, Henry O. Tanner, An Afro-American Romantic Realist, Mar. 30–Apr. 30, 1969, cat. 7 (ill.)
Berkeley, University of California Art Museum, The Hand and the Spirit: Religious Art in America 1770–1900, June 27–Aug. 6, 1972, cat. 104; Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, Sep–Oct, 1972; Dallas Museum of Art, Dec. 10, 1972–Jan. 14, 1973; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Feb–Apr. 1973.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Selections of Nineteenth Century Afro-American Art, June 19–Aug. 1, 1976, no cat. no.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Two Centuries of Black American Art, Sept. 30–Nov. 21, 1976, cat. 54, 55 (ill.); Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Jan. 8–Feb. 20, 1977; Dallas Museum of Art, Mar. 30–May 15, 1977; Brooklyn Museum of Art, June 25–Aug. 21, 1977.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Turn-of-the-Century America, June 30–Oct. 2, 1977, no cat. no., 193, fig. 22 (ill.); St. Louis Art Museum, Dec. 1, 1977–Jan. 21, 1978; Seattle Art Museum, Feb. 2–Mar. 12, 1978; California, Oakland Museum of Art, Apr. 4–May 28,1978.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jan. 20–Apr. 14, 1991, cat. 59,193 (ill.); Detroit Institute of Arts, May 12–Aug. 4, 1991; Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Sept. 17–Nov. 24, 1991; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, Dec. 14, 1991–Mar. 1, 1992.
Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Across Continents and Cultures: The Art and Life of Henry Ossawa Tanner, June 25–Aug. 20, 1995, no cat. no., 54 (ill.); Dallas Museum of Art, Sept. 12–Dec. 31, 1995; Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Jan. 12–May 5, 1996.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Henry O. Tanner: Modern Spirit, Jan. 27–Apr. 15, 2012, no cat. no., 60, 61, 62, 129, 130, pl. 54 (ill.); Cincinnati Art Museum, May 26–Sept. 9, 2012; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Oct. 21, 2012–Jan. 13, 2013.
The artist; sold to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1906.
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