Regarded as a realist painter, focusing on accurate depictions of his subjects, Tanner was the first U.S. African-American painter to gain international painting acclaim. After an unsuccessful photography studio and attempting to be a drawing instructor in the US, Tanner moved to Paris in 1891. There, within French art circles, the issue of race mattered little, and he acclimated quickly to Parisian life. At The Louvre, Tanner studied the works of Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste Chardin and Louis Le Nain, and studied under several renowned artists, too. Originally, he painted marine scenes of man’s struggle with the sea, but by 1895 he was creating mostly religious works. His Middle Eastern travels to various mosques and Biblical sites as well as character studies of the local population allowed Tanner to further his artistic training.
Tanner was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in June 1859, and died in Paris, France, in May 1937.
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