African-American Artists


From Glass' Instagram page: 


"Growing up, my mother recognized my talent and tried to put me in every art program available. I always hated that because everytime she put me in a program, they would tell her I was too advanced. So, I would end up in classes with people who were twice my age. They were learning techniques and I was just a kid who wanted to draw. 
I also didn’t have any examples of people around me who were artists. All I heard was that if I became an artist, I would be broke. So when it came time to go to college, I chose architecture. Two years in, I knew I didn’t want to be an architect but I still I did it professionally for a while until lost my position. With some encouragement from my wife, I decided to do my art while I looked for a full time job. I was off for a year and a half and made more artwork than I had in my whole life. By the time I went back to work, I was a motivated artist. I would do architecture during the day and murals at night, until I was able to become a full time artist. That makes it sound a whole lot easier than it was, but that’s what happened. I am very fortunate." - Hamilton Glass

(@hamglass), #RVA #Muralist #whosham

Post 8: Hamilton Glass

In 2019 Glass created a mural project for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in February.

2020--I bought a set of RVA tumbers from Hamilton Glass, and got some 2019 stickers he designed as a bonus. Woo-hoo!

Rumors of War is owned by the VMFA, at the Arthur Ashe Boulevard entrance.

Hamilton Glass' mural on Emrick Flats

Scroll below to see my rendition of this painting for "Post 6, 7, & 8"...

You can contact him through his website:     Who's Ham?

Last April I saw this scupture at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. It. Is. Spectacular. And life size. Quite commanding.

Kehinde Wiley has a Masters Degree in painting from Yale University. His work began addressing the question: What would it look like if marginalized people were put in positions of power in paintings? He replaced European aristocracy with contemporary black subjects in famous paintings, chosen by the sitter. This young man takes on the pose from "Willem van Heythuysen", but in his own clothes. (at the VMFA)

In "An Economy of Grace", Wiley does the same with women, but even goes to the extent of having their dresses designed by Riccardo Tisci of Giverny, mimicking the same action of past painters who would select or design the dresses of their sitters.

And of course, President Barack Obama chose him to paint his presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

African-American Artists

In March 2015, when the National Museum for Women in the Arts posted the challenge "Can you name 5 women artists?", not only COULD I, but I did so, each weekday for the entire month. I also posted the names with their art on my website. It got harder and harder as the month wore on.

In casually thinking about this last year, I suddenly asked myself, "Could I name at least one African-American artist each day for every day in February?" In about 5 minutes I had 22 names, and after focusing, I now have closer to 50, or more. Quite a few have art in the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), and a number are from or live in or near Richmond. My criteria (as with the women artists), was if I could remember the name OR the art work.


Why only one per day? To be honest, the 5-a-day was a LOT of work. I wanted something that could be more manageable. I also wanted to have a bit of writing about the artists, not just the names. 


UPDATE: The 'one a day' was just as much work, because I got drawn into the research. So, enjoy what I've done so far, and know there is a lot more to add.  Which I will do...

Willem van Heythuysen, 2006, oil on canvas, 96x72 in.  (unframed)

Willem van Heythuysen is owned by the VMFA, now hanging in the "Tapestry Hall", in the south end of the original building.

Here is a link to the National Portrait Gallery about the portrait Wiley did of President Obama 

Post 2: Amy Sherald, b. 1973

Here is a link to the National Portrait Gallery about the portrait Sherald did of First Lady Michelle Obama. 2018

Miss Everything (Unsupressed Deliverance), 2014, oil on canvas, 54x43 in. (unframed). First place in 2016 for The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

They Call Me Redbone, but I'd Rather Be Strawberry Shortcake, 2009, oil on canvas, 54x43 in. (unframed). at the National Gallery of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.  Article

Post 3: Edward Bannister, 1828-1901

Amy Sherald received her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her portraits with simple backgrounds and skin tones in values of grey. She wants her figures to be notable, not for their skin color, but for their familiarity. 

More in article about Amy Sherald from the National Portrait Gallery.

Excellent article from the National Museum of Women in the Arts.


The dress worn by Mrs. Obama in the painting is a rendition of the one made for the First Lady by Milly, created by the co-founder Michelle Smith for this occasion. 

Read more

“Edward Mitchell Bannister's determination to become a successful artist was largely fueled by an inflammatory article he read in the New York Herald in 1867, that stated 'the Negro seems to have an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it.' Ironically, less than a decade later, in 1876, Bannister was the first African-American artist to receive a national award.”  


“Since Bannister's artistic studies were limited, it is remarkable, indeed, that within five years after his arrival in Providence, one of Bannister's paintings was accepted in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. The painting, Under the Oaks, was selected for the first-prize bronze medal. Bannister related in considerable detail that the judges became indignant and originally wanted to "reconsider" the award upon discovering that Bannister was African American. The white competitors, however, upheld the decision and Bannister was awarded the bronze medal.”  However, he did not receive the award with the other recipients.

He became one of Providence, Rhode Island's leading painters in the 1870s and '80s. 


Bannister's  work is reminiscent of the Barbican School. He painted in Boston Studio Building, and took classes at the Lowell Institute with sculptor-anatomist  Dr. William Rimmer.


from  the Smithsonian American Art Museum 


It was a large-scale painting, 4x5'

 Sherald was the first woman to receive First Place in The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competion.

Post 1: Kehinde Wiley, b. 1977

Sketch of Under the Oaks,  for his award-winning Under the Oaks (now lost). About the sketch and painting

Four Cows in a Meadow, 2013, oil on canvas, 12x19 in. (unframed). Newport Art Museum, Newport RI


Moonlight Marine, 2013, oil on canvas, 22x30 in. (unframed). Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA   Read more

“In 1878, she told The New York Times: “I was practically driven to Rome, in order to obtain the opportunities for art culture, and to find a social atmosphere where I was not constantly reminded of my color. The land of liberty had no room for a colored sculptor.”

from the New York Times

"Her career at Oberlin ended abruptly when she was accused of poisoning two of her white roommates. Lewis was acquitted of the charge, though she had to endure not only a highly publicized trial but also a severe beating by white vigilantes. Subsequently accused of stealing art supplies, she was not permitted to graduate from Oberlin.”         

from Smithsonian American Art Museum


Finding her grave

“Death of Cleopatra”, 1876, marble, 63x41x46”

for Philadphial Centennial    more info

“Forever Free", marble, 1867  more info

Bust of Longfellow, marble,  29x16x12” 1871, Harvard University Art Museum

"As an artist she transcended constraints, and as a woman of color, she confronted a society that wished to categorize her.”   “Her Roman studio was a required stop for the moneyed class on the Grand Tour. Frederick Douglass visited her. Ulysses S. Grant sat for her. She made busts of John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow”   “When the United States celebrated its centennial in Philadelphia in 1876, she was invited to submit her work. Her piece, “The Death of Cleopatra” — more than 3,000 pounds of Carrara marble depicting the Egyptian queen with one breast bared and quite dead — created a stir for its commanding realism.”


Post 4: Edmonia Lewis 1844-1907

The Quarry, 1855-1862, oil on canvas, 14x23”

 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts   more info

Land of the Lotus Eaters, 1861, oil on canvas

Post 5: Robert S. Duncanson 1821/22-1872

Duncanson was a free African-American who established an international reputation during the years  around the Civil War. He had no formal training, but would have learned by copying engravings, sketching from nature, and doing portraits. He was described in the American press as “the best landscape painter in the west”.   

His patron, Nicholas Longworth (one of the richest men in the United States at the time), commissioned a series of 8 monumental landscape murals for the inside of his mansion. This stamp of approval ensured Duncanson's fame. 


His first trip to Europe in 1853 further advanced his skills and confidence: “My trip to Europe has to some extent enabled me to judge of my own talent," he wrote. "Of all the Landscapes I saw in Europe, (and I saw thousands) I do not feel discouraged . . . . Someday I will return.”


His painting, Land of the Lotus Eaters (inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson,who did see the painting), is considered a masterpiece, even in his own times. It was purchased from him by the King of Sweden. 


read more

Many people commented on Duncanson’s mixed heritage and a family member actually suggested that he might have tried to pass as white (Duncanson was light-skinned).  To that Duncanson wrote: “Mark what I say here in black and white: I have no color on the brain, all I have on the brain is paint….I care not for color: ‘Love is my principle, order is the basis, progress is the end.’”


Finding his grave

Edward Bannister, Woman Near a Pond, oil on canvas

Sketch of Under the Oaks,  for his award-winning painting, Under the Oaks (now lost). About the sketch and painting

FROM Bannister's sketch of Under the Oaks,  for his award-winning Under the Oaks (now lost). I used some of the color saturation from Woman Near a Pond (above), even though the light is coming from a different angle, and my trees are lighter.

My copy of Edward Bannister's Under the Oaks. Mine is 9x12; his was either 36x54" or 48x60" (this may be based on the frame). His and mine are both oil on canvas.

Post 6, 7, and 8: artists at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 (a world fair)

Robert Duncanson exhibited work at this event, but I have not been able to find out which pieces he had in the show. Edmonia Lewis had several works there, and won an award for her scupture, "Death of Cleopatra" (see Post 4, above) . Edward Bannister won first prize for his painting "Under the Oaks" (which was almost rescinded when the judges discovered he was black. The other artists insisted he keep the award).

The location of Bannister's painting is unknown, and this has really bothered me. For 3 days I  challenged myself to recreate a version of his painting from the sketch he did. I used colors that would have been available to him at the time, and I used other paintings by him as a reference for color and value. His sketch told me all I needed to know about light source, type of weather, etc. As I poured over the sketch, I discovered more and more cows!