Exhibition brings Tanner’s modern spirit to life


PHILADELPHIA – The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) saw a record visitor turnout on the opening weekend of “Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit,” a major exhibition of artwork by African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Showcasing the artist’s paintings, photographs, sculptures, watercolors, and drawings, Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit was organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where the artist studied from 1879 to 1885, and will tour to the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The exhibition contains over 100 works, including 12 paintings that had never been shown in a Tanner retrospective. It also includes Tanner’s famed Resurrection of Lazarus (right), from the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, a career-making canvas that earned Tanner his first international praise when it was exhibited in 1897 and which had never crossed the Atlantic.

“Henry O. Tanner is a transcendent figure both in art and in the history of America,” said Harry Philbrick, Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum.

“Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit” delves into the life and career of Henry O. Tanner from his upbringing in Philadelphia in the years after the Civil War; through the artist’s training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; his success as an American artist at the highest levels of the international art world at the turn of the 20th century; his role as an elected leader of an artist’s colony in rural France; his unique contributions in aid of servicemen during World War I through the Red Cross in France; his modernist invigoration of religious painting deeply rooted in his own faith; and Tanner’s depiction of the Holy Land and North Africa.

“‘Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit’ reveals the artist as a talented modern man whose training, intelligence and faith equipped him to surmount the difficult realities of his time and propelled him into a lifetime journey of personal and artistic discovery,” says Anna O. Marley, PAFA’s Curator of Historical American Art.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is hosting the Tanner exhibition in the Hamilton Building, 128 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-972-7600, www.pafa.org