United States Figurative Arts

Even for black painting, it is worthwhile to go back to the cenacle gathered around TM Bennister. Following the example of this first nucleus, other Negro circles and academies soon arose, while some Anglo-Saxon art schools began to admit, as a rare exception, Negro students. Among the best known painters are the landscape painter WA Harper, who died in 1910, who after studying in Chicago lived for some time in Paris, where he also refined his art and his technique. Another famous landscape painter was, in the early twentieth century, Richard Brown; a conscientious and perhaps meticulous portrait painter, on the other hand, is Edwin Harleston. Like the Harper, William Scott studied in Chicago and came to work in Paris, of which La Pauvre voisine, exhibited in the Salon d’Automne of 1912, aroused wide interest and was bought by the Argentine government. Returning to America in 1913, Scott then devoted himself entirely to mural and decorative painting, further increasing his notoriety.

Another famous painter is Henry O. Tanner, who worked in Rome, Venice, Milan (1891-96) and Paris: his paintings have appeared in international exhibitions (Paris, 1900; Buffalo, 1901; St Louis, 1904; S. Francisco, 1915). His religious temperament led him to deal with biblical subjects, as in the Resurrection of Lazarus (1897; Paris, Musée du Luxembourg). His painting is influenced by romanticism and black subjectivism; the sincerity, the spontaneity, the melancholy of the race have their most genuine expression in this painter. Other well-known contemporary painters are Laura Wheeler Waring, Palmer C. Heyden, Hale Woodruff, Archibald Y. Motely, Malvin Gray Jonson, Aaron Douglas.

The initiator of contemporary black sculpture can be considered Edmonia Lewis, born in New York in 1845, who came to Rome in 1865, where she composed her best works, including The Death of Cleopatra exhibited at the International Exhibition in Philadelphia (1876), and numerous terracotta busts, such as those of John Brown, of Lincoln, of Longfellow. Another famous sculptress is May Howard Jackson. But better known and endowed with a stronger and more daring personality is Meta W. Fuller, born in Philadelphia in 1877, to whom one of the first works The head of Medusa earned the reputation of being a sculptress of the horrible and to whom a group of Misery, exposed to the Salon in Paris in 1983, it gained international notoriety.

Theater. – Another field in which the originality, the sense of rhythm, the mimetic abilities, and the lively vivacity of the Negroes have found a way to assert themselves, arousing the interest and admiration of audiences all over the world, is the theater, about which it is worth remembering at least the name of the actor Ira Aldridge. Especially in the so-called “variety show” the Negroes, actors, singers and dancers sometimes reveal surprising gifts of agility, grace, and a very refined feeling of theater as pure spectacle, full of movement, variety, the unexpected. The great success of the Negro review in Europe is mainly due to these elements by Josephine Baker and her companions. But this so characteristic theater certainly could not have developed, had it not been for music, which of all the aesthetic and folkloristic activities of the American Negroes is undoubtedly the most important and interesting.

United States Figurative Arts 3