- NAME: Aaron Douglas
- OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter
- BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1899
- DEATH DATE: February 02, 1979
- EDUCATION: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Topeka High School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Topeka, Kansas
- PLACE OF DEATH: Nashville, Tennessee
- Full Name: Aaron Douglas
- Nickname: "Father of Black American Art"
Best Known For
Aaron Douglas was an African-American painter and graphic artist who played a leading role in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
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Back in New York, in 1933, Douglas had his first solo art show. Soon after, he started one of his most legendary works—a series of murals entitled "Aspects of Negro Life" that featured four panels, each depicting a different part of the African-American experience. Each mural included a captivating mix of Douglas's influences, from jazz music to abstract and geometric art.
In the late 1930s, Douglas returned to Fisk University, this time as an assistant professor, and founded the school's art department. Taking his educational responsibilities quite seriously, he enrolled at Columbia University's Teachers College in 1941, and spent three years earning a master's degree in art education. He also established the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk and helped secure important works for its collection, including pieces by Winold Reiss and Alfred Steiglitz.
Douglas remained committed to learning and growing as an artist, outside of his work in the classroom. He received a fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation in 1938, which funded his painting trip to Haiti and several other Caribbean islands. He later won other grants to support his artistic endeavors. Continuing to produce new works, Douglas had a number of solo exhibits over the years.
In his later years, Douglas received countless honors. In 1963, he was invited by President John F. Kennedy to attend a celebration of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, held at the White House. He also earned an honorary doctorate from Fisk University in 1973, seven years after his retirement from the school. He remained an active painter and lecturer until the end of his life.
Douglas died at the age of 79 on February 2, 1979, in a Nashville hospital. According to some reports, he died of a pulmonary embolism.
A special memorial service was held for Douglas at Fisk University, where he had taught for nearly 30 years. At the service, Walter J. Leonard, the university's president at the time, remembered Douglas with the following statement: "Aaron Douglas was one of the most accomplished of the interpreters of our institutions and cultural values. He captured the strength and quickness of the young; he translated the memories of the old; and he projected the determination of the inspired and courageous."
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During the early 20th century, African-American poets, musicians, actors, artists and intellectuals moved to Harlem in New York City and brought new ideas that shifted the culture forever. From approximately 1918 to the mid 1930s, talent began to overflow within this newfound culture of the black community in Harlem, as prominent figures—Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, to name a few—pushed art to its limit as a form of expression and representation. These are some of the famous African Americans who shaped the influential movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
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