On the grounds of Hampton University is the oldest African American museum in the United States. The collection has over 9,000 pieces of art and is displayed impeccably in the former University library.
The Museum mission, and I paraphrase, is to provide knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, diverse cultures and traditions. They certainly ace their mission with a sublime collection housed in a impressive ambience. Since pictures are not allowed at the museum here is their web site: http://wp.hamptonu.edu/msm/.
The first exhibit viewed was Spirit of the Renaissance. In this exhibit two modernist artists from the Carolina’s who left their homeland to further their education in New York City are displayed. Though the painters share a last name they are not related, however, their work is similar using colorful imagery to convey African American life in the South and New York City.
William H. Johnson’s work is diverse with paintings rendered on canvas, burlap on canvas, wood, and in water colors. He traveled Europe after his New York City training and there met his future wife, Holcha Krake, a Danish artist.
Malvin Gray Johnson is considered a true Harlem based painter as he spent most of his working life in New York City. Besides his status as an acclaimed artist he also served in World War I. Sadly, he left us all too soon at the age of 38.
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Henry Ossawa Tanner hailed from a prominent, cultured Pennsylvania family. His father was a minister who later became a bishop. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Feeling discrimination while working in America he moved to Paris where he became the first African American to gain international acclaim. He is considered the most renowned of all African American artists.
The Museum has an Indian wing rich in many artifacts and history. On the second floor is a Curiosity Room for children with several other collections. Spend time with the Elizabeth Catlett collection of never before displayed prints of this former Hampton University professor.
What a wonderful experience to visit this amazing collection.
A must see for all.