Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1859, to Sarah Miller Tanner and Benjamin Tucker Tanner. Henry is best known for his paintings of everyday African American life and for his from the bible. His most well known work is The Banjo Lesson painted in 1893, at the Hampton University Museum, in Hampton, Virginia. When he was 13 years old, Henry watched an artist at work and was fascinated by it. It was then that he decided to become an artist. He entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1879. He became the second black student to attend the school. Tanner traveled to Europe in 1891, where he spent a short time in London before settling in Paris, where he studied painting at the Académie Julien. In the summer of 1893 Tanner returned to America to recuperate from typhoid fever, but he lived permanently in France after 1894. He submitted his painting Daniel in the Lions' Den to the Paris Salon Exhibition of 1896 and received honorable mention, an honor no other American received that year. His religious works brought Tanner recognition in both France and America. Tanner was elected a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government in 1923, and in 1927 he was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design in New York. In 1996 Tanner's Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City was acquired for the art collection of the White House in Washington, D.C.; it was the first work by an African American painter to be chosen for this collection. Tanner's work is appreciated by many including the government of the United States of America, which has a select number of works of his on display in the White House. He was appreciated in his lifetime and is certainly appreciated for his great contributions to American art for all of us. Henry Ossawa Tanner died in 1937.
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