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African American Women Art

African American art is very popular in the United States today although it passed thorny path to become what it is now.



The origins of this art go back to the period between the 17th and the early 19th century when the first various forms of art appeared.

In this period, African American art consisted of folk arts and crafts, which had been produced for everyday use.

These forms were wrought-iron figures, small drums, ceramic face vessels, and quilts.

The first significant black artists of this period were a slave named Scipio Moorhead who was an engraver from New England and Joshua Johnson a painter from Baltimore who mostly drew portraits.

During colonial times, many black artists appeared and thanks to the economy development, some of them managed to save some money and start up their own business and develop their art.


To name a few Thomas Day who was a freed slave, Dave the Potter who marked the beginning of a ceramic tradition in African American art, Robert Duncanson who painted landscapes, Edward Bannister and Henry O. Tanner artists who advanced the tradition in African American painting and sculpture. Many of them were trained by various European artists.

In contrast to them black women were totally invisible in art. However, in the mid 19th century, some black female artists emerged and during 20th century the number increased leaving a significant impress on the artistic world. The most famous black woman who was the first nationally recognized African American sculptor was Mary Edmonia Lewis.

Extremely remarkable and maybe the most important movement that significantly influenced the course of African American art was The Harlem Renaissance known as the New Negro Movement which covered the 1920s and 1930s. It was vital for black people and their art because it spread the freedom within the artistic community and during this period Harlem became the "cultural capital of black America".

Number of great artists appeared in those days- William Johnson, Palmer Hayden, Richmond Barthe, Hale Woodruff…As far as black women are concerned, one of the earliest woman artist was Meta Warrick Fuller the most important studio sculptor who received a federal commission for her art. Another prominent black woman artist of this era included the sculptor Augusta Savage known for her busts of black leaders DuBois and Marcus Garvey.

In the later years, during 1950s and 1960s, only e few man artists and even less black women were accepted in American art. Elizabeth Cutlett was one of them known as sculptor and printmaker. One female black artist who very strongly influenced the African American art of modern days is Clementine Hunter who began painting when she was 40 and her paintings were first recognized in the 1950s. She is known as an artist who placed the foundation in the modern art scene and is considered as the best artist coming from the south.

Today African American art finally has much more attention and respect although it still needs support. Many famous artists like Thomas Blackshear, Charles Bibbss, Annie Lee and others are very successful in popularizing African American art.

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