Influential African American Artists

For my post today I am going to talk about and show some artwork from some famous artists (of many sorts). Since I wanted to continue my “theme” of the week on African American History all the artist I will be talking about are African American. I want to do this not only because it is African American (Black) History month but because art is one of my many passions (which is probably why I am a Art major at SMSU). I feel that art is one of the few forms that people can freely express themselves without being judged. Yes critiques may happen more often than not but no matter how hard someone might try they cannot change how YOU as an artist does YOUR work.

Each of the artists I am going to talk about have shared depictions of historic events, individuals, cultural perspectives and the experiences and struggles of minorities thought their work. I am only going to talk about five today, but there are many African American artists throughout history. I would highly suggest looking into it more if you like art. You might have your breath taken away or have an overflow of emotions after looking at some of the pieces. Now I will describe the five artists I wanted to highlight today.

The first person I am going to talk about is Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988). He was a Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980s. He is best known for bringing African American and Latino experiences into the art world through his graffiti art. He is also known for his collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol.

jean-michel-basquiat-1982 cosmic-rundown-jean-michel-basquiat-graffiti-free-download-gallery-hd-jean-michel-basquiat-graffiti-free-download-gallery-hd-836x557

The second person I am going to discuss is Augusta Savage (1892-1962). She was an artist, activist and arts educator who inspired many people by teaching, helping and encouraging them. She was best know for her sculptures and for being one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance. She also was one of the many black artists to experience racial discrimination by an art program’s selection committee.

3bdfdea747b03538a7c46671ec273dcb  harp

The third person I going to shed some light on is Kara Walker (1969-). She is known for her use of large paper silhouettes to portray social issues surrounding gender, race and black history. She is a well-known painter that has gone through many struggles to display her art. In one case she had to battle an older group of African American artists who though she was using black stereotypes in her artwork.

portrait_walker walker-draw2-003

The fourth person I am going to talk about is James Van Der Zee (1886-1983). He was a well-known Harlem based photographer that was known for his posed and storied pictures that captured African American citizens and celebrities. Due to the creation of personal cameras James Van Der Zee’s services and commissions dwindled in his later years. However, he is still known and celebrated for the work he created in his early years.

MTIwNjA4NjMzOTk2NDEyNDI4 Susan Porter

The fifth and final person I am going to discuss is E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971). Campbell was the first African American cartoonist (and writer) to have his cartoons mass produced in newspapers and magazines. He is best known for his illustrations for Esquire magazine. Since it was common to have mostly white characters in illustrations back then Campbell’s race was not generally known to readers. He work was later inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame posthumously in 2002.

40189877.CampbellfromEsquire25th simms_campbell_navy

So to officially end my topic on African American (Black) History month I want to leave you with some beautiful and powerful artwork by African Americans throughout history. Art is one of the most powerful forms to express historical events and personal struggles that everyone one can relate to in some way. More specifically in this post it can show how well African American artwork depicts their struggles and experiences throughout time.

FYI: Here is a link to more African American artist Biographies



  1. Dorie · May 21, 2017

    Too funny. Since my kids have been home for the summer they get to see how my day goes: I sit, affixed to my coeprtmu, ALL day. And I'm happy doing it. They are baffled that this is 'what I do'. 🙂


  2. rebeccaklehr · February 13, 2015

    This information is very interesting! I have never been that great at painting or drawing, but I have always loved to look at art. Looking at all these individuals’ art is very influential. It’s like they are trying to tell a story through their artwork. Since I am not an art major, I am not really familiar with artists so thank you for putting up biographies!

    Liked by 1 person

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