The Philadelphia Museum of Art says that its purchase of Henry Ossawa Tanner?s 1898 ?Annunciation? was the first piece by an African American artist to be acquired by a major American museum. Tanner?s dramatic painting, in which a slightly disheveled and fretful Mary cowers before an angelic apparition, is one of the key works in the museum?s ?Represent: 200 Years of African American Art.?
The exhibition, which opened Saturday, is smaller than its grand title would suggest and has a bit of a Black History Month feel: a well-intentioned institutional effort meant to demonstrate to local audiences a commitment to diversity, but derived from the museum?s collection and relegated to a relatively small, temporary gallery. But as you dig into it, and begin tracing the connections between its works, the show gathers force. In the century and more since the 1899 acquisition of the Tanner, the museum also has accessioned key pieces by other essential African American artists, giving visitors a rich if synoptic history of trends in American art over the past two centuries. And for a visitor who has followed art, and issues of identity and collecting in Washington of late, the exhibition is particularly intriguing ? a foil, of sorts, to some of the more conflicted and problematic shows seen here in recent months.
Read more at The Washington Post.