White House Dream Team: Henry Tanner

Drawing of Henry Tanner Henry Tanner

African-American Henry Tanner's determination to break color barriers in the art world is inspirational. As a teenager, Henry began by painting everyday scenes such as ocean views and animals at the local zoo. At age 20 he joined the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then later studied with American art students in Paris.

Henry's most famous paintings, such as The Banjo Lesson (1893), showed the everyday life of African Americans. His talent caught the attention of the Paris art world. Henry's work, Daniel in the Lion's Den, received honorable mention at the 1896 Paris art show. The French government purchased his painting, The Resurrection of Lazarus, in 1897 for the famous museum, the Louvre. Henry continued to paint, and in 1918 he received an opportunity to depict African-American soldiers serving in World War I.

Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City (c. 1885) by Henry Tanner. Depicted in the late afternoon light, windswept sand dunes appear before an ocean covered with a low haze that partially hides the sun. Henry's 1885 painting, Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, hangs in the White House's Green Room. Henry is the first African-American artist to have a work included in the White House collection.

June 21, 1859

May 25, 1937

To be recognized for his painting

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Broke color barriers in the art world

Character Trait

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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