The Two Disciples at the Tomb

An older bearded man in brown stands behind a younger dark-haired man in black.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • An older bearded man in brown stands behind a younger dark-haired man in black.

Date:

c. 1906

Artist:

Henry Ossawa Tanner
American, 1859–1937

About this artwork

The Art Institute acquired The Two Disciples at the Tomb in 1906 after the canvas was declared “the most impressive and distinguished work of the season” at the museum’s annual exhibition of American painting and sculpture. At that time, Henry Ossawa Tanner was at the height of his reputation, enjoying international fame and winning prizes on both sides of the Atlantic. The son of an African American bishop, Tanner was raised in Philadelphia, where he studied with Thomas Eakins before working as an artist and photographer in Atlanta. Repelled by the racial prejudice he encountered in the United States, he chose to spend nearly all of his adult life in France.

Tanner’s early subjects included many scenes of African American life, but later he specialized in religious paintings. The Two Disciples at the Tomb is one of the most concentrated and austere of these works. The somber spirituality of the moment when two of Jesus’s followers realize that he has risen from the dead is conveyed by Tanner’s use of dark tones and compressed space and his avoidance of superfluous detail. Although the artist painted in a relatively conservative representational manner throughout his life, the sinuous lines and simplified, harsh modeling here suggest his awareness of Art Nouveau and Expressionist currents in contemporary European painting. Likewise, his emphasis on psychological rather than physical experience has many parallels in advanced art of the same period, including Pablo Picasso’s early work, such as The Old Guitarist, painted two years earlier.

On View

American Art, Gallery 161

Artist

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Title

The Two Disciples at the Tomb

Origin

Paris

Date

1901–1911

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed, lower left: "H.O. Tanner"

Dimensions

129.5 × 105.7 cm (51 × 41 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Robert A. Waller Fund

Reference Number

1906.300

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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