simplebooklet thumbnail

of 0

Henry Ossawa Tanner Booklet Project

Art History Honors

Aria Simmons

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 21, 1858. Growing up, he had eight other siblings, and was the oldest out of all of them. Eventually, him and his family moved to Philadelphia. This is where he spent most of his childhood days. He was born to two education-minded parents. Benjamin Tanner, his father, earned a college degree and became a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Tanner attended the Robert Vaux School in Philadelphia, which was an all-black institution that offered a liberal arts curriculum. Over time, Tanner started falling in love with the world of art. At age 13, he decided that he wanted to become a painter. Unfortunately, he was significantly ill at time, which left him staying home to paint. In 1880, Tanner became healthy again and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.There, he was taught by Thomas Eakins, a teacher who had an immense impact on Tanner's life and influenced Tanner with his work. Later, Tanner left school and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught art and had his own art gallery for about two years. In 1891, Tanner visited Paris and discovered his love for the culture, leaving Paris his permanent home.

The Life of Henry Ossawa Tanner

Tanner is often considered as a realist painter, meaning he focused on accurate depictions of subjects. Tanner painted themes based on religious subjects such as "The Annunciation". Tanner's work varied from meticulous attention to detail in some paintings to loose brushstrokes in others. The combination of these techniques makes for a balance of skillful precision and powerful expression. Tanner was also interested in the power of color and the effects it can have in a painting. Many of his paintings featured a specific area of the color spectrum. Paintings such as "The Annunciation" and "The Resurrection of Lazarus" contained warmer compositions, which expressed the intensity and fire of religious moments. Other paintings like "The Good Shepherd" and "The Return of the Holy Women", emphasize cooler, blue hues. These evoke a sad feeling. Tanner also used light to add symbolic significance to his paintings. In "The Annunciation", the angle Gabriel is represented as a column of light that forms, together with the shelf in the corner is a cross.  


The Banjo Lesson (1893)

Location: Hampton University Museum  

Tanner's "The Banjo Lesson" presents a memorable scene. This painting was inspired by "Uncle Tim's Compromise on Christmas". It's a depiction of an older man teaching a little boy how to play the banjo. The only thing that the old man held as a personal possession was his old banjo, so his gift to the child was a banjo lesson. But "It was the one thing the little boy counted on as a precious future property, and often, at all hours of day or evening, old Tim could be seen sitting before the cabin, his arms around the boy...And sometimes, holding the banjo steady, he would invite little Tim to try his tiny hands at picking the strings." (Stuart RM Uncle Tim's Compromise on Christmas. Harper's Young People. 1893;15:82-4) Tanner uses many details in this painting  to show us that the people are the most important part of the painting. The usage of warm colors reveals the meaning of love and passion in this painting.

Abraham's Oak (1905)

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Abraham's Oak shows an ancient oak tree, which died in 1996. Legend holds this to mark the place where three angels appeared to Abraham. The location is near Hebron. The story is that Abraham washed the feet of three strangers who appeared there, and showed them great hospitality. They revealed themselves to be angles, and informed him that his wife would become pregnant and bring him a son. This painting reveals the significance of showing hospitality to others.

The Two Disciples at the Tomb (1906)

Location: Art Institute of Chicago Building

In this painting, Peter, the older man points to himself as if saying "oh my God," while the younger apostle, John, raises his head straining to with expectancy to see fulfillment of Jesus' promise with the Resurrection. The color contrast between light and dark radiate a sudden awareness of the miraculous even of Christ's Resurrection.They're the faces of simple men, whose faith has saved them.

The Annunciation (1898)

Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tanner painted "The Annunciation" after returning to Paris from a trip to Egypt and Palestine n 1897. He created this unconventional image of the moment when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will beer the Son of God. Mary shows an adolescent dressed in rumpled Middle Eastern peasant clothing, without a halo or other holy attributes. Gabriel appears only as a shaft of light. This was Tanner's first work to enter an American museum.

The Three Marys (1920)

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum

"The Three Marys" depicts a beautiful portrait of three women as they see the light in front of Jesus' tomb and that he has risen from the dead. Each woman has a different response. This painting is nearly monochromatic, with blue as the primary color. Tanner explains, "My effort has been to not only put the Biblical incident in the original setting, but at the same time give it the human try to convey to the public the reverence and elevation these subjects impart to me."

The Thankful Poor (1894)

Location: Private Collection

In "The Thankful Poor" there's an image of a grandfather and a grandchild giving thanks before a meal. He painted the people and the objects in the room with great detail, while everything else blends in with the light and brushstrokes in the painting. The light shinning on the young boy's face reveals the boy's concentration, devotion, and thankfulness.

I like this painting because it reveals and expresses the power of prayer and thankfulness. This painting depicts two individuals who don't have much. However, their circumstances don't hold them back from being thankful and having hope. Tanner's usage of a warm/bight color contrast in this painting give off a peaceful and calming feel. "The Thankful Poor" really makes you sit back and think..... you have every reason to be thankful in life. There are people who have less than you and are happy, so you should be happy too.

My Two Favorite Paintings

I like this painting because it reveals compassion. The older man has a passion for playing the banjo and wants to share that passion with the little boy. There's a color contrast between light and dark, and for me, this symbolizes the good in the bad. What's bad is the circumstances they're under, but what's good is their "escape", their distraction from reality, which in this case, is playing the banjo.

Booklet Project (continued)

Booklet Project

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Art History Honors

Aria Simmons

Hello, I'm Aria Simmons, and I made this booklet to give you a glimpse in the life of a legendary artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner. This booklet project contains a little bit of his life, his paintings and their meanings, and even my view on his paintings. Tanner was not only created art, he created history. Take a look through my booklet! I hope you enjoy. :)


Claude Monet remains one of the most famous painters in the history of art. He was born in Paris, France, on November 14, 1840. Growing up, Monet didn't like being confined to a classroom, he much rather have been outside. He developed a love for drawing at an early age, filling his schoolbooks with sketches people, including caricatures of his teachers. His mother supported his artistic efforts, however, his father wanted him to go into business. Eventually, Monet became well-known for drawing many of the town's residents. After meeting a local landscape artist, Monet started to explore the natural world in his work. The local landscape artist introduced him to painting outdoors, which later became the cornerstone of Monet's work. From 1861 to 1862, Monet served in the military, but was discharged for health reasons. Monet later got married to Camille Doncieux, she serves as a muse for him, sitting in numerous of his paintings during her lifetime. In 1867, they had their first child and experienced great hardship with them being financially unstable and Monet's father refusing to help them. Monet gained financial and critical success during the late 1880's and 1890's, and started the serial paintings for which he would become well-known for. He continued to travel to find other resources of inspiration.

Summary of Monet's Life

In Monet's teenage years, he used charcoal for his paintings and it wasn't until he met Boudin, that he started painting with oil. This technique started Monet on his illustrious career. Monet loved being outside, and his love for natural light really showed in his earlier paintings. Around 1868, Monet's style was clearly changing. He started painting outdoors, the outdoor painting style involved rapid brush strokes and broken color. Monet's brush stroke is a key feature in his paintings, he relied on fast brush strokes in order to depict light in never before seen Realism. In "Sunrise" you can see Monet's brushstroke technique in full effect. Monet's use of color was directly related to his use of light. He loved experimenting with colors. His usage of color was widely ranged, his use of dark tones was often utilized in order to further highlight his use of brighter colors. His work drew a lot of brutal criticism, because he was breaking the rules of artistic representation with regards to his usage of color. His work was said to be influenced by the Japanese tradition of wood block prints.

Monet's Style

Monet's style changed towards his later life. He wanted to pursue even more means of depicting natural lights effect on different scenes. An example would be his series of paintings of Haystacks on his property in Giverny. He wanted to depict the changing look of something as ordinary as haystacks depending on the time of day they were seen. A series of different paintings from different angle but of the sam object is what followed. Not only Monet's perspective changed throughout the years, but also his usage of colors. It's said that his usage of colors changed because of his ailing health. After his surgery, Monet's works are said to have included streaks of blue ultra violet light that the lens of a normal eye can usually perceive.


"Bain a la Grenouillere"(1869)

Medium: Oil paint

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art


"The Magpie"(1868-1869)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Musee d'Orsay

"Impression, Sunrise" (1872)

Medium: Oil paint

Musee Marmottan Monet

"Garden at Sainte-Adresse" (1867)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Metropolitan Museum of Art

:Women in the Garden"(1866)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Musee d'Orsay

"Springtime" (1872)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

"Water Lilies" (1919)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Beach in Pourville" (1882)

Medium: Oil on canvas

National Museum, Poznan, Poland

"Boating on the River Epte" (1890)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Sao Paulo Museum of Art

"Snow at Argenteuil" (1874-1875)

Medium: Oil on canvas

National Gallery, London