by Joan M. Rehlin
We’re celebrating Black History Month by highlighting Edward Mitchell Bannister in this mini art history post. Bannister (c. 11/1828–1/9/1901) was a prominent 19th century Canadian-American artist, who was born in New Brunswick and moved to New England in his early 20s. While living in Boston, Bannister initially used his artistic skills to tint daguerreotypes, which were introduced during the mid-1800s. He married in 1857, and in 1870, he and his wife settled in Providence, RI.
Inspired by the works of the French Barbizon School of painters, Bannister's pastoral landscapes and seascapes emphasize mood and shadow. He became one of the well-known Tonalist artists, and several of Bannister’s paintings were selected for group exhibitions at the Boston Art Club and Museum. In 1876, Bannister won a bronze medal – the highest honor awarded to oil paintings – for his Under the Oaks at the Philadelphia Centennial, the country's first national art exhibition. In 1880, he was among the group of artists who founded the Providence Art Club to encourage art appreciation in their area, and the organization honored him with the title of Artist Laureate. A successful career artist, Bannister was described in A History of African-American Artists as “a professional artist who lived by his painting.”
Although Bannister was dedicated to racial equality, rather than focus artistically on equal rights he created paintings that present universal harmony, spirituality, and liberty. During his lifetime, he was widely admired within the East Coast art world. Unfortunately, he lapsed into obscurity for nearly a century, for reasons associated mainly with racial prejudice. Then, beginning in the 1970s, Bannister’s work was again collected. He was also celebrated posthumously through a variety of cultural events including, in 1978, having the Rhode Island College dedicate its art gallery in Bannister’s name and exhibit his work. Bannister’s River Scene, shown here, is currently displayed in the Honolulu Museum of Art.
River Scene, oil on canvas, 1883, Edward Mitchell Bannister
Jim Rehlin's Art Blog
Welcome to my Art Blog where I'll be presenting topics of interest in the fine art world, as well as featuring images of artwork by artists other than myself. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces I find worthwhile to share with you, and if you like any of them, consider sharing the images forward to your own blogs and other social media.