Lions in the Desert

  • Henry Ossawa Tanner, Lions in the Desert, ca. 1897-1900, oil on canvas mounted on plywood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins, 1983.95.184

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.
Lions in the Desert
ca. 1897-1900
Not on view
15 1229 38 in. (39.574.5 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins

Mediums Description
oil on canvas mounted on plywood
  • Animal – lion
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI