Henry Ossawa Tanner biblical painting exhibit to open at Museum of Fine Arts Houston

October 19, 2012 3:44:37 PM PDT
A landmark exhibit opens at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston this weekend, featuring works that show familiar biblical stories in a whole new way. But these paintings weren't done recently; they date back to the turn of the last century.

They were painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner, one of the first African-American artists ever to achieve international fame. The son of a Philadelphia minister and a former slave, tanner moved to Paris in the late 1800's, and became known for his religious paintings. But these don't show the usual images of angels with wings or the Virgin Mary with a halo.

"Tanner breaks away from that. He brings divinity into the every day. These are everyday scenes, everyday situations that are infused with an incredible spirituality. But he makes them modern. These are religious paintings unlike anything you've ever seen," says Emily Ballew Neff, MFAH Curator of American Painting.

Tanner's masterpiece is also here, the very first time it's ever been shown outside of France.

'Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit' opens at the MFAH this Sunday and runs until January.

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