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HENRY O. TAXNER From a photograph specially taken for The Outlook from the portrait by Mr. H. D. Murphy.
By Elbert Francis Baldwin
ENRY OSSAWA TANNER is development of painting or to the devel
unlike any other artist who ever opment of religion, Americans have ap
lived. In the first place, he is of parently not yet so fully appreciated the negro blood. He is the son of Bishop Tan- value of Mr. Tanner's work as have the ner, of the African Methodist Church, and French. His pictures have been hung he was born and “ brought up" in Phila- on the line in many a Salon exhibition, delphia. He does not live in Philadelphia and now the Government of France has any more, nor in this country. He lives in crowned the long list of medals and prizes Paris, and he does so because here he is which Mr. Tanner has received by buying reminded of his race, there he is treated one of his most important works, “ The purely as an artist. Yet he does not Raising of Lazarus,” for the Luxembourg resemble a certain too-often-accepted type. Gallery. The picture has already been If one study his face, there is seen some- hung in the Luxembourg, and in the thing which hints of African descent, but course of time will naturally be transhis color is brown, his hair and beard are ferred to the Louvre, in accordance with thin, his eyes look at you with a Saxon the well-known rules of the two great directness, his nose is Greek, his mouth is State galleries. Hence, the “Raising of sensitive, his physique is supple and light, Lazarus " is to most people the best known his manner is quiet, easy, courteous, dig- of Mr. Tanner's religious pictures. · It is nified. He has become more than ever perhaps the most realistic of them all. associated with the whites by marrying a Other men in other times have depicted white woman. MM. Benjamin Constant, the same scene, but have hardly realized Gérome, and, in short, all the lead.rs it with so broad yet simple imagination. of French painting to-day, have recog. They certainly have not given to it a nized in Mr. Tanner a true artist and greater intensity in the awakening from man; they have come to esteem him death to life. Mr. Tanner's picture, as much for his personal qualities as for however, differs from the wonderful etchthose which he has shown in his work. ing by Rembrandt and from almost every That work itself shows both illuminating other representation of the subject in not intelligence and the ingredients of a noble making the figure of Christ an overshadpersonality.
owingly prominent one. Christ stands Mr. Tanner's religious pictures start out before the body of Lazarus, not nearer on a true Southern foundation of heartily to it than any of the others about. The expressed emotion. This accounts, how- whole grouping has dramatic unity and ever, for but half of their appeal to us. naturalness. The figure of our Lord, The other half is due to the fact that the however, does not lose in majesty by emotion is expressed with a Northern such treatment; on the contrary, it really exactness. As we look at these canvases gains. The Christ is not forced on one; we detect no obscurities of drawing, no he appeals first as man, like any other incoherence of color. We cannot escape man, standing alongside other men ; from the impact of clearness and unity. gradually he appeals as God, and the On this as a foundation, past and present longer one studies him the more inevicostumes and customs and historical and table seems his power to work such a religious scenes of Palestine—for many miracle. For the moment we forget that of the pictures were painted in that coun- it is a miracle; it translates us so immetry—are portrayed for us with an accu- diately into the actual incident that it racy and a realism which a Tissot might becomes to us a matter of course that employ, yet with no dead weight of over. Lazarus should die and that Christ should elaboration. In short, the Tanner work is raise him from the dead. rarely original, suggestive and inspiring. A marked and welcome quality is Whether judged from its import to the observable in all the Tanner pictures, whether those of landscapes (showing the greater force and dignity, characterize width of the artist's range) or those of the religious canvas exhibited this winter Bible characters and scenes. That qual at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine ity is atmosphere. The trees stand out Arts at Philadelphia, which has now puragainst the landscape; you breathe around chased it for the Temple collection. It is them. The figures stand out from their a study of Christ and Nicodemus. More environment, as does the head of our quickly than do most religious pictures, Lord in the “Nicodemus," with the sleep it transports us to the spiritual atmosing city in the distance, and the beautiful phere of the East. The two figures are blue, cool, enveloping moonlight all about. seated on the stone roof of a Jerusalem
Flashed up from an artificial light burn- housetop. That of Nicodemus repreing in a room below stairs, a soft, dim sents a dignified old man, with long yellow glow falls upon Christ's breast. beard and flowing robes, bent figure, and This combination of the two lights sym- head still more bent, leaning forward to bolizes as well as anything our artist's listen to the divine words which his all-embracing sense of the realistic, yet younger companion is speaking. Jesus apparently ever in the service of the ideal. sits on the parapet and immediately faces His quickness in grasping what some the spectators of the picture. His face is artists do not emphasize, as well as his somewhat ascetic, with straight black hair sense of the patently dramatic, may thus and beard, high forehead, blazing eyes, be noted, not only in such scenes as the decidedly marked nose and mouth, a Raising of Lazarus (which would naturally evoke it), but also even in the quiet and it received the Lippincott prize at Philadelphia, it
This picture took conversation on the housetop. Such a has been owned by Mr. Rodman Wanamaker, who was force it is, evident in unexpected places,
a benefactor of Mr. Tanner in other days when the artist
was struggling for recognition. It is understood that which illustrates the potentialities of life. Mr. Wanamaker has bought in advance the two pictures
which Mr. Tanner will exhibit in the Salons of 1900 and A similar naturalness, but an even
THE RAISING OF LAZARUS
certain leanness of flesh, and a patent of the same subject in the girlishness of mingling of sternness and yearning in Mary as she rises, half dreamfully, half the expression. While it seems as spirit- wonderingly, from her couch, her drapery ual as anything Fra Angelico painted falling about her in statuesque, unlabored four hundred and more years ago, or folds. While Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and the as anything which M. Dagnan-Bouveret now classic delineators of “The Annunpaints to-day, it is more virile than the ciation " have given a distinct representawork of either of those time-separated, tion of the angel, in Mr. Tanner's picture spirit-united painters. In religious feel there is no angel ; instead there is a great ing Mr. Tanner seems nearer to Fra effulgent light which streams in from the Bartolommeo than to any other artist, side and awakens the startled girl. An past or present. As in Fra Bartolommeo's illustration may reproduce the lines of masterpiece, the soul-moving " Descent the painting, but no illustration can re from the Cross,” hanging in the Pitti produce Mr. Tanner's beautiful color in Palace in Florence, so here in Mr. Tan- this or in any other of his works. It is so ner's masterpiece hanging in Philadel- clean-cut, thorough, pure, that when we phia, so subtle is the painter's power as see one of his pictures in an exhibition not only to make one feel that which the alongside those by other artists, we gaze characters of the picture, Christ and Nico upon it with a grateful sense of refreshdemus, are exchanging-one may even ment. The luminous quality of his paint dare to think their thoughts after them. removes us quickly from commonplace
A larger and, from the standpoint of crudity and garishness. It is like the · spiritual idealism, very remarkable pic difference between the rich vegetable ture is “ The Annunciation,” which now dyes of an Oriental rug and the miserable hangs in the “ Memorial Hall,” one of the aniline colors which we see in cheap remaining tokens of the World's Exposition carpets. While we may have expected of 1876 at Philadelphia. There is more to be more impressed by Mr. Tanner's than a reminder of Rossetti's treatment drawing, in the last analysis it is perhaps
his color which stays with us longer ; its scene (in the Carnegie Gallery at Pittsburg) quality is akin to that of precious stones. we see in nineteen-twentieths of the picture “ The Annunciation ” would appeal to us vast Judean landscape, with the battlepowerfully from the sensuous fascination ments of Jerusalem peering over the horiof its color alone, even if it were not here zon, and, down in one corner, in one of in a higher sense a symbol of the great the deep, rugged valleys, the swinging est event in the Christian world—the In- body of the traitor and the approaching carnation.
figure of a passer-by, who in another mo Another excellence which this painter ment will discover the tragedy. Through possesses in his religious pictures is that this simple means the painter conveys of depicting strictly Oriental and Jewish the sense of surprise and horror, which scenes, and yet giving to us no merely otherwise might not be so strong, to us Hebrew types, but world-types. The fig- who are looking at the picture. Rarely ure of Nicodemus, for instance, might be has any one expressed more completely that of an old man in any country—a than has our artist the aridity and desoworld-craving for knowledge; the figure lation of the world which must press of Mary in “The Annunciation,” that of in upon the soul of him who has turned any young girl-lhe awakening of human- his back upon the Holy. In this picture ity by divinity.
the Tanner idea of dramatic power seems Few artists have attempted to represent to be carried to the most forceful expresthe flight of Judas after he had betrayed his sion yet achieved ; it has the accent of Lord. In Mr. Tanner's portrayal of this inspiration.
By Martha Gilbert Dickinson
And smite the heights of hope with eager cry-
No harbinger as yet against the sky.
A watcher lone, I sound my bugle-call
With soul erect though coward strongholds fall.
Each wakeful star a sentry's challenge gleams;
Around me rise the silver mists of dreams.
God of the plain, what bidding wilt thou send?
Again in vain I scan the dim highway-
God of the hills, art thou for peace or fray?
And flash on wing of light unto my gate;
Thou dauntless sun-clad servitor of fate!
I meet thy weal or woe on bended knee.
From out the regal hand of destiny !