At the Centennial Exposition of 1876, a painting entitled Under the Oaks, made by an emerging but little known painter from New England, was selected for the first-prize bronze medal. Edward Mitchell Bannister was born in New Brunswick, Canada, of West Indian and Canadian parentage, and received his artistic training in Boston and Rhode Island.
When Bannister heard that his painting had won the prestigious medal and went to claim his prize, he related that the judges became indignant and originally wanted to “reconsider” the award upon discovering that he was African American. His fellow competitors, however, upheld the decision, and Bannister was awarded the bronze medal.
While we do not know today the location of this famed painting exhibited in Philadelphia in 1876, we are privileged to have three landscape paintings by Bannister from the 1880s and 1890s in PAFA’s permanent collection. Bannister’s national recognition as a leading landscape painter ushered in a new era of landscape painting, one that was more inclusive and diverse, and featured women and artists of color that had been, for the most part, excluded from the earlier Schuylkill and Hudson River schools. Presented in this gallery is a selection of these landscapes by late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century artists including Cecilia Beaux, May Howard Jackson, Marianna Sloan, Horace Pippin, and Edward Loper.