Whether you’re interested in adding modern African American art to your home collection or are just looking to integrate this art style into your décor, it’s imperative that you learn more about the background and history. While many of us know the basic ideas of where modern African American art was inspired, the more we know, the better we can include this art into our homes as well as our hearts.
It’s interesting to note that modern African American art began long before the idea of ‘modern art’ was conceived. As early back as slavery, African Americans were crafting iron pieces, pottery, quilts, baskets, cabinets, and silver. While many of these tasks were relegated to them, the utmost craftsmanship was required and thus the African American population became quite skilled in these crafts. What’s even more compelling about this situation is that the African Americans were generally allowed to sell any work they did in their ‘off time’ for profits they could keep, thus enabling them to purchase their freedom from their masters.
But while most of these early examples of modern African American art were for practical purposes, other African Americans began to create portraits as artistic pieces. Artists like Robert M. Douglas Jr. and Joshua Johnson were taught the basics of painting and composition on their own or through private tutoring, as deemed by their owners or by abolitionists that wanted the slaves to be able to save up to buy their freedom.
Once the Civil War ended and slavery was declared illegal, there was a resurgence in the time’s modern African American art movement. Pieces of these artists’ work were displayed more prominently in museums and private homes. And while these works tended to include simple nature scenes as well as portraits, they still found some struggle in getting shown in public areas in the United States. In Europe, however, African Americans were much more successful in garnering praise as well as showing of their work. Across the ocean, African Americans were able to try new styles of painting and art as they were generally accepted.
Moving into the modern African American art phase, these African American artists were bolstered by the Harlem Renaissance movement. More artists than ever were getting recognition for their work, thus paving the away for African American art to not only be accepted, but also celebrated in artistic circles. Even Roosevelt helped the African American art movement with the passing of his Works Progress Administration.
By seeing the struggles that the African American artists went through to come into this age of modern African American art, it’s easy to see how valuable these pieces are. When you bring a piece of African American art into your home, you not only celebrate the artists of this time, but all of the generations that came before. You celebrate the history of a people that have never given up on their talents, no matter how far others may have tried to push them down.