Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African American Artists before the Twentieth Century

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Landscape painting of waterfall in Yellowstone park (1890)

Grafton Tyler Brown, View of the Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1890). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY

The first African American painter to make the American west his subject, Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918) was born in Pennsylvania and moved westward in the 1850s, in part to find an alternative to the racism and poverty in the east. By trade a mapmaker and painter, Brown eventually landed in San Francisco where he at first worked for, and later owned and operated, a successful lithography concern. Much of his work depicts in bold shapes and grand vistas the open and untrammeled lands of the western United States. Some commentators have suggested that Brown's work, such as the famous painting represented above, View of the Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1890), are meant to depict a world without the entanglements of racism and prejudice, a world without borders or artificial boundaries.

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