The Banjo Lesson, by Henry Tanner, is an example of 19th century realism. As we can see realism is the attitude of accepting the situation you are in and preparing yourself mentally to deal with that situation. Henry tanner was a famous painter that liked to make simple but controversial paintings. Personally I think the man is a genius. So what does Henry Tanner and 19th century realism have in common? They collide when he makes his most famous painting, The Banjo Lesson. (This painting shows an elderly black man teaching what is assumed to be his grandson how to play the banjo.)
This painting is truly amazing because it is simple, yet some many questions and possibilities to what the painting is trying to tell us. Africans American were stereotyped, they were known for knowing how to play musical instruments. In this painting yes he is teaching the boy how to play the banjo, but it goes much further than that. The focus of this picture is not the general stereotype instead the painting portrays a specific moment of human interaction. The man and the child seem to be oblivious to everything around them. They are so concentrated on what they are doing and cooperating with each other. These are not stereotypes these are real people with real human qualities. Tanner takes on the challenge of making it as realistic as possible. He has two separate and light sources. A natural white, blue glow from outside enters from the left while the warm light from a fireplace on the right. The figures are illuminated where the two light sources meet. Like we have learned the picture is balanced and we immediately look at the middle where the man and the boy are. I think the lights are a transition between two worlds where tanner leaves his U.S past and moves into his new home in France.
My response to the painting is that I liked it and probably is one of my favorites after looking at the details and analyzing it. The way I see it...
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