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Bust of Benjamin Tucker Tanner
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Bust of Benjamin Tucker Tanner

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description Henry Ossawa Tanner is regarded as one of the most distinguished African American painters. He received his training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia under Thomas Eakins and at the Académie Julian in Paris. After 1895, he lived in Paris and painted religious works inspired by his travels in the Holy Land. Tanner produced few portraits and only a couple of these were sculptures. The bust is slightly less than life size and this, combined with its slightly rough finish, suggest that it is a study for another, more finished, piece. Although the bust might appear to be made of bronze, it is in fact plaster, treated to look like the metal. Represented here is the artist's father, Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923), a distinguished cleric in the African American Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1866, the senior Tanner was pastor at the Bethel A.M.E. Church (African American Methodist Episcopal Church) in Baltimore, and later he served in Frederick, Maryland. Twenty years later, he became a bishop in Kansas City. Bishop Tanner was also a writer and poet and published books pertaining to the A.M.E. Church. In 2004, this sculpture was added to the museum’s collection as the result of a challenge grant from Eddie and Sylvia Brown, helping diversify the Walters’ holdings of 19th-century art.

The bust was prepared for loan to the exhibition H. O. Tanner: Modern Spirit, 1/2012-1/2013. Damage to the front lower right corner was restored.

The bust of Benjamin Tucker Tanner, the father of the artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) is cast in plaster and patinated to imitate bronze. While the model used to make the bust was done by H. Tanner, the plaster bust was probably cast by Gabrielle Fabbri, whose signature appears on the bottom of the bust. This was a common practice in the late 19th c. for the artist to create the model and a craftsperson to actually cast the plaster bust. The right corner of the base and an area below the "B" in Benjamin had been damaged and lost prior to acquisition by the Walters in 2004. In consultation with the curator, the original plaster was isolated and the losses were reconstructed for an upcoming exhibition.

Date Description Narrative
4/20/2011ExaminationExamined for loan; examined for condition
12/12/2012TreatmentCleaned; stabilized; repaired; loss compensation
  • Henry O. Tanner: Modern Spirit. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston. 2012-2013.
Provenance Sadie T. M. Alexander [niece of the artist]; Steven L. Jones, African American Material Culture, Philadelphia [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 2004, by purchase.
Inscriptions [Signature] On left side of base: H. O. Tanner
Credit Museum purchase with funds provided by the Eddie and Sylvia Brown Challenge Grant for the Acquisition of African American Art, matching funds, and the estate of Anna Fehl, 2004

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painted or patinated plaster
Accession Number
H: 15 x W: 12 1/2 x D: 9 1/2 in. (38.1 x 31.8 x 24.1 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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