DECEMBER 17, 2010 – FEBRUARY 27, 2011

The Des Moines Art Center is privileged to own four exceptional works by the African-American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937). Tanner is regarded as the most distinguished African-American artist of the 19th century and the first to achieve international acclaim. Born in Pittsburgh, Tanner attended the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. There he studied with a group of master professors including Thomas Eakins, who exerted a great influence on his early style. In 1891, Tanner traveled to Europe and eventually settled in Paris where he earned multiple awards in the Paris salon exhibitions of the time.

Henry Ossawa Tanner and his Contemporaries will highlight the groundbreaking achievements of this artist and place his work into context with artists of his era. It will also explore Tanner’s relationship with civic leaders in Des Moines, particularly J. S. Carpenter, a founding member of the Des Moines Art Center. Along with the Art Center’s four Tanners, a fifth work, Portrait of Booker T. Washington, will be on loan from the State Historical Society of Iowa. Works by
Paul Gauguin, Mary Cassatt, and August Rodin will round out the show, among others. All five Tanners in the show will soon be traveling to a major Tanner retrospective organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which will then travel to the High Museum of Arts, Atlanta and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston throughout 2012-2013.

The Des Moines Art Center exhibition is inspired in part by this major show, and its curator, Anne Marley, will give a lecture in conjunction with the Art Center exhibition. Tanner’s grandniece, Dr. Rae Alexander-Minter, an educator and former arts administrator, will also present a lecture.

The exhibition is organized by Laura Burkhalter, associate curator and Jill Featherstone, museum education director.

Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, 1859-1937)
The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water, ca. 1907
Oil on canvas; 51 1/2 x 42 inches
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Gift of the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, 1921.1

entirely unexpected