Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859 - 1937)
The Walls of Jerusalem, 1898
Oil on panel
9 Ĺ x 13 inches
Inscribed, signed and dated at lower left: To my good friend/ F. V. DuMond/ H.O. Tanner/ 1898
Period gilded oak frame
Gift of the artist to Frank Vincent DuMond
By descent in the Congdon family
The Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Connecticut
Private Dealer, New York, New York
Brock and Co., Concord, Massachusetts, 2008
Raised in a family of highly educated and devoutly religious blacks, Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and later moved to Philadelphia. In 1880 he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1880 where he studied with Thomas Eakins. The artist developed a realist style with a tonal palette that became brighter and more impressionistic over the years.
Tanner left the United States to study in Paris in 1891, where he found critical and commercial success. Tanner exhibited at the Salons, which led to steady patronage and recognition. A trip to Jerusalem led to a turning point in terms of subject matter as Tanner began to focus on religious and spiritual themes.
The present picture was painted in Jerusalem in 1898 and is executed in a bright, Impressionistic palette composed of leaf greens, powder blue and sandy yellows. Tannerís brushwork is fluid and applied in broad strokes, with a strong sense of texture. Tanner has flattened and abstracted space, yet the sense of the ancient city walls and hardy landscape is clearly conveyed.
Tanner was the first black artist elected to the National Academy and was made a Knight of France's Legion of Honor.