Edward M. BannisterEdward M. Bannister was born in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1828. The best-known landscape painter associated with Providence Rhode Island in the late 1800s, he was a black artist who moved to the city in 1870. All British provinces abolished slavery shortly after Bannisters birth, and thus, he had much latitude to develop his interest for art, studying the major established visual artists, living as a free Black.
He was the first African-American artist to win a national art prize when he received the first-place award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, but as a black, he was denied admission to the Hall to accept the award.
By the time he was sixteen, both of his parents had passed away, prompting a more rapid maturation. Harris Hutch introduced Bannister and his brother to the classics of music, literature, and art. During these formative years, he spent every opportunity doodling with crayons and charcoal. In 1848, he traveled to Boston and New York as a seaman, occasionally working along the seaboard, and then in Boston became skilled as a barber.
Bannister loved visiting museums, libraries, and art galleries. Envisioning a potential for photography as an art form, he became an early painter of photographs. He married New York businesswoman Christina Carteaux after meeting her through a black drama group, and it was her stature that probably allowed and encouraged him to become a full time, established painter.
Although he never took formal art training, he was one of a few blacks who attended the Lowell Institute evening program. Financial freedom allowed him to open his own studio, and he painted in a vigorous Barbizon mode, focusing on natures changing moods. Often he included well-drawn and painted figures reacting to the drama of a natural scene, as in "Approaching Storm" (1886, oil on canvas). Bannister attributed his art talents to his belief in God.
He moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1870, and six years later was the only New England artist to win a bronze medal at the 1876 World Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia for his creation, "Under the Oaks". He was one of the most respected artists in Providence, which was home to many pastoral landscape artists. Bannister was one of the founders of the Providence Art Club, which later assisted in the development of the Rhode Island School of Design.
During the Civil War, Bannister became an advocate of rights for the Union black soldiers. He died in 1901.
Biography with permission from AskArt.com
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