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Henry Ossawa Tanner's Work Coming to the MFAH in October

Henry Ossawa Tanner, the son of an escaped slave mother and a preacher father, was one of the first African-American artists to achieve a reputation in both America and Europe.

An exhibit of more than 100 of his works is coming to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in October.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1859, Tanner was able to persevere despite the racism and slavery of his time, even attending the all-white Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

This MFA exhibit includes Tanner's career-making canvas Resurrection of Lazarus. Resurrection arrived in America for the first time earlier this year, having never crossed the Atlantic before. On loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, this piece earned Tanner his first international praise in 1897.

Tanner was the son of Sarah Tanner, an escaped slave, and Benjamin Tucker Tanner, a minister, editor and political activist. The family moved to Philadelphia when Tanner was young and he grew up there amid prevalent racism.

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Despite opposition, Tanner became the only black student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. His works are mainly religiously themed. Painting also became a therapeutic source of release for Tanner, but his autobiography, The Story of an Artist's Life, talks about how the lack of acceptance by his peers was deeply painful.

After his move to Paris, Tanner's work grew increasingly mainstream and allegorical, but his early depictions of humble black folk about their daily lives are regarded as classic statements of African-American pride and dignity.

This collection is currently on display in the Cincinnati Art Museum and concludes its U.S. tour in Houston at the MFAH this October.

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