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An Archive for Virtual Harlem

Jessica Johnston, Author
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Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

Visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance attempted to win control over the representation of their people from white caricature and denigration while developing a new repertoire of images. Prior to World War I, black painters and sculptors had rarely concerned themselves with African American subject matter. By the end of the 1920s, however, back artists had begun developing styles related to black aesthetic traditions or folk art. As African art became better known in Western art circles, West African cultural models gained importance for black American artists. 

Many of these artists produced their best work in the 1930s and helped cultivate the next generation. The Great Depression forced many artists to return "home" from Europe and brought them together in a critical mass previously unknown. In the 1930s, New York City became a centre of art education with new galleries, schools, and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, which was founded in 1929. Most important for the aspiring black artists were the School of Arts and Crafts and the Harlem Community Art Center. In the middle and late 1930s, with Works Progress Administration (WPA) aid, federal arts projects under the New Deal provided and unprecedented level of encouragement to the development of black artists and helped start the careers of a new generation of artists.

The seven artists were selected to reflect the broad range of the art produced during the Renaissance in painting, sculpting and photography.
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