Installation view of the Henry Tanner section in the Whistler to Cassatt exhibition

4 Things to Know About Henry Ossawa Tanner

View of a group of men crowded around a man in repose.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Resurrection of Lazarus, 1896. Oil paint on canvas; 37-1/4 x 47-1/2 in. Musée d'Orsay: acquis en 1897. Photo: Herve Lewandoswki. © RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY.

2. A Permanent Expat

He went to Paris in 1891–and stayed there for the rest of his life. Although he only intended to visit Paris before continuing to Rome, Tanner decided after two weeks in the French capital to stay, where he studied at the Académie Julian under Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens. He also joined the American Art Students’ Club and spent time with the colony of artists at Pont-Aven in Brittany.

3. Celebrated in His New Home

Within only a few years of his arrival in Paris, Tanner became a very successful artist, exhibiting his work in several of the competitive annual Salons. In 1897, Resurrection of Lazarus won a third-class medal at the Salon and was purchased by the French government and eventually found its way into the collection of the Louvre.

4. A Leader for Equality

While Tanner remained an expatriate until his death in 1937, he continued to have close ties to the United States, and was particularly invested in the struggle for African American equality. While he was proud of his contributions as an African American, he chose to live in France where he felt his race mattered less to other artists and critics.