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Henry Ossawa Tanner papers, 1860s-1978, bulk 1890-1937

Henry Ossawa Tanner papers, 1860s-1978, bulk 1890-1937

Tanner, Henry Ossawa, 1859-1937

Painter, Photographer, Educator, Illustrator

The papers of Henry Ossawa Tanner in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 2,471 images.

The collection was fully digitized in 2007 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Grant.

Collection Information

Size: 2.3 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was a painter from Pittsburgh, Pa. He was a painter mainly of biblical scenes. Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, studying with Thomas Eakins (who painted a well-known portrait of him). After the failure of his photographic portrait studio in Atlanta, Ga., Tanner went abroad in 1891; the trip was financed by a Methodist bishop, Joseph Crane Hartzell and his wife. Tanner settled in Paris, France and remained there until his death, barring a brief period during World War I, when Tanner and his family were evacuted to England.

Provenance

Donated by Jesse O. Tanner 1967-1978, through Marcia M. Mathews, who had been sent all of Tanner's papers by Jesse Tanner in order to complete her biography.

Related Materials

Archives of American Art microfilm reel 4399 contains the Alexander family papers relating to Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1912-1985, the originals of which are housed in the University of Pennsylvania Archives. Microfilm reel 4397 is a copy of the the Henry O. Tanner letters to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1885-1909, loaned for microfilming by the Academy.

Funding

The collection was fully digitized in 2007 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Grant.

Scope and Contents

The papers of the expatriate African American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner measure 2.3 linear feet and date from the 1860s to 1978, with the bulk of the material dating from 1890 to 1937. Found in the papers are scattered biographical, family, and legal materials; twenty-seven folders of correspondence with family, friends, patrons, and galleries; writings and notes by Tanner and others; a small amount of printed material; numerous photographs of Tanner, his studio in Paris and home in Trepied, Normandy, his family, friends, fellow artists, and his artwork. Additional photographs include a circa 1890 shot of Tanner with fellow students at the Académie Julian and another depicting Tanner with members of the American Art Club in Paris, circa 1900. Also found are a few sketches and drawings.

Biographical material contains identification documents, awards, family and personal bibles, scattered records of his membership in the Societe Artistique de Picardie and the American Expeditionary Forces, address books, family history, a file concerning a lawsuit against the Bethel A.M.E. Church, and a few records documenting the sale of his artwork. Tanner's personal and professional correspondence is with his wife Jessie, his family, friends, patrons, art galleries, and others. Letters are from various family members, his closest friend Atherton Curtis and his wife Ingeborg, friend J.S. Carpenter who was president of the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts and arranged for sales of Tanner's work in the mid-west, Grand Central Art Galleries in New York, and J.J. Taverty who purchased Tanner's work for the High Museum in Atlanta. Topics of note covered in the correspondence include the sale and exhibition of his artwork and his work for the Red Cross.

Writings and Notes by Tanner include two small notebooks, one of which he kept during his travels in Europe and Palestine in 1897. Also found are his scattered loose writings, jottings, and other notes on various subjects, including autobiographical notes. Writings by others include notes and an essay by his wife Jessie, and a manuscript, "The Life and Works of Henry O. Tanner," by his son Jesse. Printed Materials document Tanner's career and other interests through exhibition announcements, news clippings, printed reproductions of artwork, a published autobiographical essay, and other miscellaneous items. The collection includes numerous photographs of Tanner, family and friends, his studio in Paris, his home in Trepied and in Spain, travels, and artwork. Additional photographs include a circa 1890 shot of Tanner with students at the Académie Julian and another depicting Tanner with members of the American Art Club in Paris, circa 1900. Artwork consists of an ink drawing of a Paris studio and pencil sketches by Tanner.

The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.

The papers of Henry Ossawa Tanner in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 2,471 images.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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