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Black History Month

Originally Posted February 1, 2022

Black History Month: Celebrating Black Artists and Their Art

Every February, we take time to commemorate the achievements and experience of Black people. And in the world of art, that means celebrating the force and splendor of Black artists.

For much of our history, Black voices were silenced. Yet creators of color persevered and left a legacy that has helped to define the art world.

The achievements of Black artists are far too numerous to list in full, but the three we’ve assembled here are all amazing talents who you should know.

Known for his incredible portraits, Kehinde Wiley (1977) has become a leading voice in contemporary art. His work includes a portrait for none other than President Barack Obama. He’s also famous for reimagining the work of the Old Masters, recasting their scenes with Black protagonists.

But he didn’t start here. His artwork began in earnest with portraits painted from photographs — images of young men living and working on the streets of Harlem. He gradually expanded his scope, including subjects from the likes of Senegal, Rio de Janeiro, and beyond.

His work is precise, dramatic, and dazzling. The colors explode off the canvas, which aches with the weight of expressive humanity. He is an era defining painter, proving that the medium can remain relevant in the 21st century.

Kehinde Wiley Portrait of President Barack Obama (2018-2020)

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859 to 1937) broke boundaries. He was the first African-American artist to break out of obscurity and launch to the top of the art world, all at a time when there was fierce opposition to Black representation in his home country.

Through his career, he traveled the world, always painting. From the streets of Paris to Jerusalem, he created a legacy of urban landscapes that remain captivating. But he was also a master of the private scene, as in his most famous work The Banjo Lesson (pictured above).

Tanner went on to influence a variety of artists in the 20th century who studied his ability to capture subjects both large and small with such balance and poise.

Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Banjo Lesson (1893)

Laura Wheeler Waring

Laura Wheeler Waring (1887 to 1948) remains one of the giants of the Harlem Renaissance. As an artist, she helped to document one of the most dynamic artistic flowerings in American cultural history. She also blazed a trail as an inspiring woman of color.

Waring graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1914, when she received a scholarship to travel to France. There, she studied at the Louvre. On her return to the US, her career began to take off.

She participated in one of the first Black artist exhibitions in the US, and the Harmon Foundation commissioned her to create portraits of leaders in the Harlem Renaissance. These achievements have solidified her legacy as a great American artist.

Laura Wheeler Waring’s Anna Washington Derry (1927)

These three artists are just a few of the many great African/American Black Men and Women Artists who have told their stories, and the stories of their culture, and countries throughout time. Contemporary Art Gallery Online is proud to join the celebration of Black History and to contribute to the education of Blacks in America and Worldwide. Please visit our Exhibition, Virtual Gallery, and Tribute; to the great, imaginiative, creative, intelligent, and soulful peoples- past, present, and future.


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