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Lions in the Desert

ca. 1897-1900 Henry Ossawa Tanner Born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1859 Died: Paris, France 1937 oil on canvas mounted on plywood 15 1/2 x 29 3/8 in. (39.5 x 74.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins 1983.95.184 Not currently on view

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Henry Ossawa Tanner grew up in a religious home and his family took special pride in the history of the biblical Hamatic races of African origin (Mosby, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1991). It is possible that he regarded the lion as a symbol of his African heritage. Tanner learned to draw lions from trips to the zoo in Philadelphia, where he grew up and attended art school. While in Paris in 1891, he sketched them at the Jardin des Plantes and took an animal anatomy course at the natural history museum. Tanner painted Lions in the Desert during one of his visits to the Middle East, which he described as a barren landscape. He did not see actual lions there, but later added them to the painting in his studio.


Animal - lion

Landscape - desert


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

wood - plywood