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Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

Invitation to Christ to Enter by his Disciples at Emmaus

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
Invitation to Christ to Enter by his Disciples at Emmaus
signed 'H.O. Tanner' (lower left)--inscribed with title (on a label affixed to the frame)
oil on canvas
19 ½ x 23 1/8 in. (49.5 x 58.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1920s.
Marius Goring, East Sussex, England, by 1998.
By descent to the present owner.
Archives of American Art, Tanner papers, Box 1, Folder 23.

Lot Essay

We would like to thank Dr. Anna O. Marley and Mr. Jeffrey Richmond-Moll for their assistance with cataloguing this lot.

A prominent nineteenth-century African-American artist best known for genre and religious imagery, Henry Ossawa Tanner studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins. In 1891, Tanner moved to Paris, where he would remain for the rest of his life. In 1923 the French government awarded the artist the Legion of Honor, and in 1927 Tanner became the first African-American artist to be elected into the National Academy of Design. "He was the first African-American artist to achieve international acclaim and was among only a handful of American artists of any race to reach this level by the late nineteenth century." (D.F. Mosby, Across Continents and Cultures: The Art and Life of Henry Ossawa Tanner, Kansas City, Kansas, 1995, p. 41)

Tanner's father, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, was a minister and later Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church, and instilled the artist with a strong religious foundation early in life. Yet, it was not until the mid-1890s while living in Europe that Tanner began to paint the religious subjects for which he would become best known. The present work refers to a New Testament scene from the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus encounters two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. Not recognizing him as Jesus Christ, his disciples invite him to supper. Luke reads, "As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, 'Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.' So he went in to stay with them." (Luke 24:28-29) Other versions of the same subject by Tanner depict the supper following the encounter and include The Pilgrims of Emmaus (1905, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France); And He Disappeared Out of Their Sight (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.); and And He Vanished Out of Their Sight (unlocated).

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