Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African American Artists before the Twentieth Century

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Untitled landscape painting of sunset with quarter moon (1883)

Edward Mitchell Bannister, Untitled (Sunset with Quarter Moon and Farmhouse, 1883). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY

Unlike many prominent painters of his day, Bannister never studied abroad, nor even formally, but was instead an entirely homegrown talent. He was also forced to face homegrown challenges and prejudice. Bannister's Under the Oaks was awarded a medal in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, but when Bannister, who had failed to clarify his race when submitting his painting, arrived to claim his prize the swooning judges threatened to give it to another artist. Only upon the intercession of Bannister's fellow artists was the medal restored to its rightful recipient. The incident, and the painting, brought Bannister to the public's attention. That work, like the painting represented here, Sunset with Quarter Moon and Farmhouse (1883), unashamedly displays the awe and mystery in nature that have made this Bannister's work endure for more than a century.

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