Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).
Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, and Jenifer P. Borum
American painter . Bannister grew up in St Andrews, a small seaport in New Brunswick, Canada. His interest in art was encouraged by his mother, and he made his earliest studies, in drawing and watercolour, at the age of ten. After working as a cook on vessels on the Eastern seaboard, he moved in 1848 with his brother to Boston, where he set up as a barber serving the black community. During the 1850s and 1860s he learned the technique of solar photography, a process of enlarging photographic images that were developed outdoors in daylight, which he continued to practise while working in Boston and New York. Documented paintings from this time include religious scenes, seascapes and genre subjects, for example the noted Newspaper Boy (1869; Washington, DC, N. Mus. Amer. A.), a rare study of urban black experience.
In 1870 Bannister and his wife moved to ...
Betty Kaplan Gubert
Edward Mitchell Bannister was the first of two sons born to Edward and Hannah Alexander Bannister. His father was from Barbados; his mother, who was probably of Scottish descent, was a native of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, and fostered her older son's love of drawing. His father died when Bannister was six; his mother died in 1844. The two boys were sent to live with a wealthy white lawyer, Harris Hatch, and his family. They worked on the Hatches' farm but had access to the Hatches' library, which was filled with books and with paintings that Bannister copied incessantly.
Following the path of many young men who lived in coastal communities, Bannister went to sea, working on fishing boats and schooners. He settled in Boston in 1848 laboring at menial jobs before he learned the skilled trades of barbering and women s hair styling He ...
Pamela M. Fletcher
painter, was born in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of Hannah Alexander, a native of New Brunswick, and Edward Bannister, from Barbados. While his birth date has generally been given as 1828, recent research has suggested that he was born several years earlier. After the death of his father in 1832, Edward was raised by his mother, whom he later credited with encouraging his artistic aspirations: “The love of art in some form came to me from my mother. … She it was who encouraged and fostered my childhood propensities for drawing and coloring” (Holland, Edward Mitchell Bannister, 17). His mother died in 1844 and Edward and his younger brother William were sent to work for a wealthy local family where he was exposed to classical literature music and painting Edward s interest in art continued and an early biography of the ...
artist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James F. Bell and Susanna County, probably laborers. Little is known about Bell's early life. She presumably attended segregated schools. It is unlikely that she ever received artistic training; she declared that she drew “without human teaching.” She probably worked as a domestic servant, laundress, or seamstress, beginning in her teenage years, and she may have traveled extensively. Bell said she “lived all around” before World War I. Since she does not appear in early-twentieth-century city directories or census records in Washington, D.C., or Boston, Massachusetts, and because she apparently never married or had children, it is likely that she resided with her various employers.
By the mid-1920s Bell was working for Edward Peter Pierce, justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1914 to 1937, and Adele Dutaud Pierce his wife as a live ...
London‐born poet, printer, visionary, and ‘prophet against empire’. Over the course of his lifetime Blake confronted the horrors of slavery through his literary and pictorial art. He was able both to counter pro‐slavery propaganda and to complicate typical abolitionist verse and sentiment with a profound and unique exploration of the effects of enslavement and the varied processes of empire.
Blake's poem ‘The Little Black Boy’ from Songs of Innocence (1789 examines the mind forg d manacles of racial constructions in the minds of individuals both in the poem itself in the form of the black child and his white counterpart and also in the minds of those involved in the political dispute over abolition Seeming to explain a desire for racial acceptance and spiritual purity through assimilation into white British society and seeming also to be endorsing conventional assumptions of white racial superiority the poem ...
Susan B. Iwanisziw
commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...
Dorothy A. Washington
museum cofounder, college equity officer, educator, and community volunteer, was born Fredi Mae Sears in Bradenton, Florida. She was the only daughter of three children born to Mary Miller, a laundress, and Oscar C. Sears Sr., a laborer at a trailer park operated by the local Kiwanis Club. She grew up in a deeply religious community that valued family, friends, and the church, and her father was a deacon and a founding member of St. Mary Baptist Church. Such lived experiences prepared Sears for a life of service.
In 1939 she graduated as valedictorian of her class at Lincoln High School in Bradenton. Upon graduation, she enrolled at Florida A&M College (later University) in Tallahassee, Florida, where in 1944 she earned a bachelor of science degree in Home Economics with minors in Science and English While at Florida A M Sears wrote for the student newspaper and her ...
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Campeche was the son of a free black father and a Spanish-born mother. Campeche started drawing at an early age, influenced by his father, who was an artisan. He later had contact with the Spanish painter Luis Paret, who was exiled for three years (1775–1778) in Puerto Rico. Paret, a more experienced and formally trained painter, greatly influenced the style of the gifted Campeche.
Campeche is best known for his paintings of religious images and political figures. Among his works we find some of the first artistic representations of blacks in colonial slave society: the Exvoto de la Sagrada Familia (around 1800, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection) and the street scene in Gobernador Ustariz (1789–1792, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection). Another example is the artist's lost Self-Portrait that survives in two copies done by Ramón ...
painter, illustrator, and graphic artist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second oldest of nine children of Herbert and Irene Crichlow, immigrants from Barbados. Using his bricklaying and plastering skills, Crichlow's father made beautiful, patterned ceiling decorations that Ernest recalled as his earliest artistic inspiration. In the 1920s Crichlow won his first artistic commission: a neighborhood preacher paid him and a close friend to paint a black Jesus on a window shade. Not only did this assignment encourage Crichlow to pursue a career in art, it also marked the beginning of his work with black subjects.
Realizing Crichlow's artistic potential, his art teachers at Haaren High School in Brooklyn raised money for a scholarship for him to attend the School of Commercial Illustrating and Advertising Art in Manhattan. In a 1968 interview Crichlow recalled that he left school during the height of the Depression but whether this ...
Joseph D. Ketner and Wendy Jean Katz
African American painter. A self-taught artist and landscape painter of the Hudson River school tradition, Duncanson was the first African American artist to receive international recognition (see fig.). Born into a family of painters and handymen, Duncanson first worked as a house-painter and glazier in Monroe, MI. By 1841 he was in Cincinnati, OH, where he learnt to paint by executing portraits and copying prints. Throughout the 1840s he travelled as an itinerant artist between Cincinnati, Monroe, and Detroit. His early work included portraits, including those of local abolitionists and educators, as well as a few genre subjects and ‘chemical’ paintings for paying exhibition.
Around 1850 Duncanson was awarded his largest commission, the murals for the Cincinnati estate Belmont, formerly the Martin Baum House (now Cincinnati, OH, Taft Mus.), then owned by prominent art patron Nicholas Longworth (1869–1931 These consist of eight landscape panels 2 77×2 21 ...
Joseph D. Ketner
Robert S. Duncanson was born in Fayette, New York, the son of John Dean Duncanson, a carpenter and handyman, and Lucy Nickles. His grandfather Charles Duncanson was a former slave from Virginia who was emancipated and around 1790 moved north. Perhaps because he was the illegitimate offspring of his master, Charles had been permitted to learn a skilled trade and later to earn his release from bondage. After the death of Charles, the Duncanson family moved west to the boomtown of Monroe, Michigan, on the tip of Lake Erie. There Robert Duncanson, along with his four brothers, was raised in the family trades of housepainting, decorating, and carpentry, a legacy of his grandfather's bondage. At the age of seventeen, after several years of apprenticeship, Duncanson entered into the painting trade with a partner, John Gamblin, advertising as “Painters and Glaziers.”
For unknown reasons the painting partnership ...
Joseph D. Ketner
painter, was born in Fayette, New York, the son of John Dean Duncanson, a carpenter and handyman, and Lucy Nickles. Robert's grandfather Charles Duncanson was a former slave from Virginia who was emancipated and around 1790 moved north. Perhaps because he was the illegitimate offspring of his master, Charles had been permitted to learn a skilled trade and later to earn his release from bondage. After the death of Charles, the Duncanson family moved west to the boomtown of Monroe, Michigan, on the tip of Lake Erie. There Robert, along with his four brothers, was raised in the family trades of house painting, decorating, and carpentry, a legacy of his grandfather's bondage. At the age of seventeen, after several years of apprenticeship, Robert entered into the painting trade with a partner, John Gamblin, advertising as “Painters and Glaziers.”
For unknown reasons the painting partnership disbanded after ...
Donna M. Wells
artist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Thomas Freeman and Sarah Freeman. Following his father's death, in 1877 he and his sister Delilah moved with their mother to Washington, where Freeman attended Washington, D.C., public schools and excelled in drawing and painting. It is not known if he finished high school. He held a variety of jobs, including laborer and waiter, to help support the family.
In 1885, at the age of seventeen, Freeman started to advertise his services as a painter in addition to art framer and bicycle repairman. Gradually he began to pursue a career as an artist and photographer. His early work consisted of pastel drawings of Washington's elite African American community. His most famous portraits were of the Washington lawyer John Mercer Langston, completed in 1893, and of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1895 That ...
See also Art in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Lisa E. Rivo
artist, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, the seventh of eight children of Sam Gilliam, a carpenter and truck driver, and Estery C. Cousin, a schoolteacher. Around 1942 the Gilliams moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Sam's artistic promise was encouraged by his parents and his teachers at Virginia Avenue Elementary School, Madison Junior High School, and Central High School, all segregated public facilities. Following high school graduation in 1951, he enrolled at the newly desegregated University of Louisville, earning a BA in Fine Arts in 1955. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he returned to the University of Louisville and completed an MA in Painting in 1961 The following year Gilliam moved to Washington D C and married the journalist Dorothy Butler Over the next several years they had three daughters For the next twenty five years Gilliam worked as a teacher first ...
the first-native born portrait painter in New Orleans, and possibly the second documented painter of African descent in the United States (the first is believed to be Joshua Johnson of Baltimore), was born in the Crescent City, the son of Jeanne Susanne Desirée Marcos, a free woman of color, and John Thomas Hudson, a London-born merchant.
Historian Patricia Brady has traced Hudson's ancestry back three generations, to an enslaved woman, possibly born in Africa, named Annette, owned by a family named Leclerc. Annette may have been freed, but gaps in the documentary record leave this point uncertain. Her daughter, Françoise Leclerc, was purchased by one François Raguet in 1769, under a contract requiring that she be freed within six years. There is no record of any marriage, but Raguet freed her in 1772, purchased a home for her in 1776 and acknowledged her daughter Adelaide Raguet born ...
American painter, perhaps of West Indian heritage. Johnson was the first significant, identifiable African American professional painter. He worked primarily in Baltimore, painting portraits from 1796 to 1824. His career and his identity as a ‘Free Householder of Colour’ are sketchily documented in city records. He had once been a slave and apprenticed to a blacksmith, but was freed by the 1780s. More than 80 portraits have been attributed to him (see fig.). Sarah Ogden Gustin (c.1798–1802; Washington, DC, N.G.A.) is the only signed work and typifies his early style. Although the figure is woodenly rendered and awkwardly seated within a flattened space, the view through a window reveals a painterly landscape and an attempt at atmospheric perspective. Johnson’s early portraits closely resemble compositions by members of Charles Willson Peale’s family, particularly Peale’s nephew Charles Peale Polk suggesting that he may have studied under them ...
Black beggar and performer in 19th‐century London known as ‘Black Joe’. The details of Johnson's birth are unknown, but he is immortalized in a drawing, first published in 1815, which is featured in John Thomas Smith'sVagabondiana; or, Anecdotes of Mendicant Wanderers Through the Streets of London (1817).
Johnson had served in the merchant navy until he retired following an accident. Not being entitled to any relief payments because of his foreign birth, he was obliged to earn a living by begging. In order to avoid confrontation with the local beadles, he first started on Tower Hill, where he amused passers‐by by singing George Alexander Stevens's ‘Storm’, and later ventured into the public streets, becoming a so‐called ‘Regular Chaunter’. Johnson built a model of the ship Nelson and fixed it to his hat so that by bowing his head he was able to simulate the motion ...
artist, was born in France, but the exact place of his birth is unknown. Nothing is known about his parents or his youth, but it seems likely that he received a traditional artistic education in Europe. Lion's lithographs were exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salons of 1831 (four prints, including L'affût aux canards [Duck Blind], which won honorable mention), 1834 (four works, including a scene based on Victor Hugo'sNôtre Dame de Paris), and 1836 (lithographs after Van Dyck, Jacquand, Waltier, Boulanger, and others). In the mid-1830s Lion immigrated to New Orleans, where the 1837 city directory listed him as a freeman of color and as a painter and lithographer; he worked in a lithography shop opened by the newspaper L'Abeille (The Bee Light skinned Lion often passed for white and appeared in other records as such His studio was located at ...