Tanner Family Legacy House

Henry ossatwa tanner house

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937) was a groundbreaking African American artist who gained recognition for his significant contributions to American and European art during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tanner spent a significant portion of his early life in Philadelphia. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1859, but his family later moved to Philadelphia when he was still a child. Tanner was the eldest of nine children and the son of a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His early exposure to religious themes in his father's church would later influence many of his artistic works.

Henry Ossawa Tanner's artistic talents were evident from a young age, and his family encouraged his passion for art. He began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. 

Tanner faced numerous challenges as an African American artist during a time when racial prejudice and discrimination were pervasive. Despite these obstacles, he pursued his passion for art and became the first African American artist to gain international acclaim. Tanner's oeuvre includes a wide range of subjects, but he is particularly celebrated for his religious and genre paintings, often characterized by a masterful use of light and a deeply spiritual tone.

One of Tanner's most famous works is "The Banjo Lesson" (1893), which depicts a grandfather teaching his grandson to play the banjo—a poignant reflection on African American heritage and the preservation of cultural traditions. His other notable works include "The Resurrection of Lazarus" (1896) and "The Thankful Poor" (1894).

Tanner's art earned him recognition in prestigious exhibitions, including the Paris Salon, where he won numerous awards. In 1923, he became the first African American to be granted full membership in the National Academy of Design in New York. Tanner's success opened doors for future generations of African American artists, and his legacy endures as a trailblazer in the art world and a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity.

North To the World 🌍...Tanner Family Left a Legacy ... Elevation NORTH PHILLY!

The Tanner House Project under construction...

Contact information: 

Judith Robinson, Founding Member, Strawberry 🍓 Mansion Civic Association

Email: [email protected] , 215-235-6517

Address: 2908 W. Diamond Street

Learn more about the preservation efforts of Tanner's house in Philadelphia