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Anthony Aiello and William Pencak

The history of early African American painting is scattered and incomplete. In fact, evidence of the existence of black painters before the late nineteenth century comes not from paintings still in existence but from newspaper advertisements selling their services. The economic and social difficulties for free black fine artists and painters were severe, and the opportunities for slaves to engage in such pursuits were virtually nonexistent. Additionally, as with early American art in general, African American art consisted, for the most part, of folk art produced by anonymous people for practical use. Very little work dating to before the nineteenth century survives.

The earliest known African American artifact is a drum that was found in 1645 in colonial Virginia Resembling a West African chief s drum its decorative wood carving shows the high regard in which African and African American society held skilled carvers The earliest African American sculpture ...


Dewey Franklin Mosby

painter and draughtsman, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Benjamin Tucker Tanner, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and editor of the Christian Recorder, and Sarah Miller. Tanner's parents were strong civil rights advocates; his middle name, Ossawa, was a tribute to the abolitionist John Brown of Osawatomie.

The Tanner family moved in 1868 to Philadelphia, where Henry saw an artist at work in Fairmont Park and “decided on the spot” to become one. His mother encouraged this ambition although his father apprenticed him in the flour business after he graduated valedictorian of the Roberts Vaux Consolidated School for Colored Students in 1877. The latter work proved too strenuous for Tanner, and he became ill. After a convalescence in the Adirondacks, near John Brown's farm, in 1879 he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins ...