Since the abolition of slavery in the USA, the American Negro needed changes in his living conditions. With the end of World War 1, and the industrialization in the north, African Americans found it necessary to move north for a better living. They went en mass to big cities and gave rise to a new grand culture. This was “the great migration of African Americans” The greatmigration expended the Negro’s communities and created a greater market for Negros’ culture, mainly on Art which was composed of painting, sculpture, and photography.
I/ The renaissance of a new African American art an its importance
The Harlem Renaissance was the era when African Americans could express their thought and culture in a newly formed black community in Harlem. And this culture wassomehow a mean to express the civil rights and equality. As a heritage, African American painting, sculpture, photography, pottery… became important aspects of this mainstream culture. That’s to say literature, theatre, music and politics were not the only means to show their identity and to struggle for their freedom and emancipation.
Before the Harlem renaissance blacks did not have the opportunityto be professional artists since the Jim Crow laws in South separated blacks from the mainstream of American life. Leaders of the Harlem renaissance who had coined the idea of “The New Negro” encouraged Black visual artists. They were guided to a new image and ethnic identity that emphasized the influence of African Art, and the folk Art of Black Americans.
The establishment of the Harmonfoundation by the Art patron William E. Harmon in 1922 sponsored many artists through its Harmon Award an Annual exhibition. As it did with many such endeavors, the 1929 great depression largely ended founding for the Art for a time. While the Harmon Foundation still existed in this period, its financial support toward Black artists ended. However it continued supporting them until 1967 by organizingexhibitions and offering founding for developing artists such as Jacob Lawrence.
The US treasury department’s public work of Art project ineffectively attempted to provide support for artists in 1933. In 1935, President Roosevelt created the work progress administration (WBA) which provided for all American artists and provided especially help to African American artists. Some of them gained worksthat helped them survive the Depression.
"....Harlem Re/Naissance is a provocative response to a new art era: an aesthetic retort that, like Jean Toomer's anthropomorphic, plum bearing perennial, transcends time to celebrate identity, creativity, the past, the present and the body politic. With the visual arts of the 1920s and 1930s anchored by black peoples, we can recollect and reimagine thistwentieth century moment when Harlem was not only 'in vogue’, or 'on the minds' of a complacent few, but also a geo-political metaphor for modernity and an icon for an increasingly complex black Diaspora presence in the world."
II/ The different forms of visual art
It was used by African American artists as a mean of expression. It dealt in general with African folk talesand themes as motif in Clay, plaster and bronze. Let’s take the example of Meta Fuller with her Ethiopia Awakening a sculpture in bronze made in 1914. Themes used by sculturalists were generally emotional reflecting misery life and death.
It was regarded by many as a documentary medium, and as a result a great visual lexicon of photojournalism was created by so called streetphotographers. Their works were based on the intense visual imagery and tones that influenced them as the early painters and graphic artists. The photographers cherished the people, places, and events in their pictures and early on, developed the means to express their affections. For example, during the glory days of the 1920s, hundreds of Harlem's finest made the trip to James Van Der Zee's studio...