Recognized as “the most distinguished African-American artist of the nineteenth century”, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) forged a path to international success, powerfully influencing younger black artists who came after him. His painting The Annunciation (1898), was acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1899, and was the museum’s first acquisition by a Black artist. It is one of five Tanner paintings at the museum and remains one of his most celebrated works.
The Henry O. Tanner House, located at 2908 W. Diamond Street in North Central Philadelphia, is in immediate need of support to stabilize, repair, and restore the family home of the internationally renowned artist. Through the end of June, The Philadelphia Museum of Art will donate 20% of revenue from all orders of The Annunciation to The Friends of Tanner House to help support their efforts.
Tanner painted The Annunciation soon after returning to Paris from a trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1897. The son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Tanner specialized in religious subjects, and wanted to experience the people, culture, architecture, and light of the Holy Land. Influenced by what he saw, Tanner created an unconventional image of the moment when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Mary is shown as an adolescent dressed in rumpled Middle Eastern peasant clothing, without a halo or other holy attributes. Gabriel appears only as a shaft of light. Tanner entered this painting in the 1898 Paris Salon exhibition, after which it was bought for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1899, making it his first work to enter an American museum.
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