Aaron Douglas, The Harlem Renaissance “Father of Black American Art”

0 Posted by - August 20, 2018 - Art, BLACK MEN, HARLEM RENAISSANCE, LATEST POSTS

was an African-American who played a big role during the Harlem Renaissance. Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas and had parents who were both highly skilled in their professions. Douglas developed a love for art as a young child. He often watched his mother paint using watercolors. After high school in 1917, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska, where he later earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1922. Wanting to share his love for the arts with others, he taught at Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri. Like many African-Americans during the early 1900s he decided to move to New York City to be a part of the big lights and thriving art scene.


Once Douglas arrived in New York he became quickly immersed in the life of Harlem’s cultural. He had no problem finding opportunities working as an illustrator for many newspapers and magazines. He illustrated for the “Opportunity”, “National Urban League’s Magazine” and the “Crisis.” Douglas met and married school teacher Alta Sawyer, they created a quaint little home together and would often host gatherings for powerful African-Americans during that era. Guests at their home often consisted of W.E.B Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

Many people wanted to work with Douglas because of his extraordinary artistic abilities. He worked on a magazine with Wallace Thurman that featured African-American art and literature, entitled Fire! However, only one copy was ever published.  Douglas became a leading figure in the artistic and literary movement of the Harlem Renaissance. Later he would become known as “the father of American Art.”


It is believed that Douglas’ best work was created during the 1930s. It was during this time that he was hired to work on a mural for the library at Fisk University. After completion, he then spent time in Paris studying with Charles Despiau and Othon Friesz.  One of Douglas’ most well-known paintings is a series of murals entitled “Aspects of Negro Life.” It is four panels, each depicting a different part of the African-American experience.



Biography- Aaron Douglas

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