RI BLACK HISTORY
Edward Mitchell Bannister
November 2, 1828 – January 9, 1901
Edward Mitchell Bannister was a Black Canadian-American Tonalist painter. Like other Tonalists, his style and predominantly pastoral subject matter were drawn from his admiration for Millet and the French Barbizon School.
Bannister was born in St. Andrews, New Brunswick and moved to New England in the late 1840s, where he remained for the rest of his life. Bannister was well known in the artistic community of his adopted home of Providence, Rhode Island and admired within the wider East Coast art world: he won a bronze medal for his large oil "Under the Oaks" at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial. But he was largely forgotten for almost a century for various reasons, principally racial prejudice. Bannister began his official career as an artist when an article in the 1867 New York Herald belittled both him and his work, stating "[...] the negro has an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it." Prior to working as a painter, Bannister worked as barber and tinted photos. In the late 1850s he attended lectures given by D. William Rimmer, a sculptor noted for his accuracy in rendering the human figure. Over the course of his career, Bannister was inspired by the Barbizon school-influenced paintings of William Morris Hunt who had studied in Europe and held numerous public exhibitions in Boston around the 1860s. Although committed to freedom and equal rights for Afro-Americans, he chose not to inject those issues into his work, adopting instead a spiritual philosophy and individually expressive style which represented harmony and liberty on a more universal plane...