Laura Wheeler Waring

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Laura Wheeler Waring
Laura Wheeler Waring.jpg
Born (1877-05-16)May 16, 1877
Hartford, Connecticut
Died February 3, 1948(1948-02-03) (aged 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Known for Painter

Laura Wheeler Waring (May 16, 1887 – February 3, 1948) was an African-American artist and educator, best known for her paintings of prominent African Americans produced during the Harlem Renaissance.[1] She also taught art for more than 30 years at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.

Early life[edit]

Laura Wheeler was born May 16, 1887 in Hartford, Connecticut, the fourth child of six born to Mary (Freeman) and Reverend Robert Foster Wheeler. Her mother was a daughter of Amos Noë Freeman, a Presbyterian minister, and Christiana Williams Freeman, who had been prominent in anti-slavery activities, including the Underground Railroad in Portland, Maine and Brooklyn, New York.[2] Laura graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1906 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, graduating in 1914.[3][4]

In 1906 Waring began teaching part-time in Philadelphia at Cheyney Training School for Teachers (later renamed Cheyney State Teachers College and now known as Cheyney University.) She taught art and music at Cheyney until 1914 when she traveled abroad to Europe. Her occupation at Cheyney was time consuming, as it was a boarding school and she was often needed to work evenings and Sundays. This left her without much time to practice art. 1906-1914 were slow years for her artistic career as a result of this. Waring worked long hours teaching art, sometimes spending summers teaching drawing at Harvard and Columbia for additional money.

After she returned from Europe, she continued to work at Cheyney and did so for over thirty years. In her later years at Cheyney, she was the director of the art programs herself. In 1914 Laura Wheeler-Waring was granted a trip to Europe by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’ William E. Cresson Memorial Scholarship. She traveled to Europe where she studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France and traveled throughout Great Britain. While living in Paris, Wheeler-Waring frequented the Jardin du Luxembourg. She painted Le Parc Du Luxembourg (1918), oil on canvas, based on a sketch she made during one of her recurrent visits. Wheeler-Waring also spent much time in the Louvre Museum studying Monet, Manet, Corot and Cézanne. “I thought again and again how little of the beauty of really great pictures is revealed in the reproductions which we see and how freely and with what ease the great masters paint."

Wheeler-Waring planned on traveling more throughout Europe to Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, but her trip was cut short when war was declared in Europe. She spent three months in Europe before the Great War began and she needed to return to the United States. Waring’s trip at the time had very little effect on her career, but it has been remarked as a major influence on her and her work as an artist. Receiving the scholarship gave her the time to evolve as an artist and, as the award was highly regarded, she gained publicity by it.but, being that the scholarship was highly regarded, also granted her much publicity.[5]

Time in Paris (1924–1925)[edit]

After the end of the war, Waring returned to Paris in June of 1924. Her second trip to Paris was regarded to be a turning point in her style as well as her career. Waring described this time as the most purely art-motivated period in her life, "This was my only period of uninterrupted life as an artist with an environment and associates that were a constant stimulus and inspiration." For approximately four months, Waring lived in France absorbing French culture and lifestyle. She began to paint many portraits, and in October enrolled to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére, where she studied painting. Instead of soft, pastel tones she painted a more vibrant and realistic method. Houses at Semur, France (1925), oil on canvas, has been called by art historians the painting that marked Waring’s change in style. Her use of vivid color, light, and atmosphere in Houses at Semur, France (1925) is characteristic of the style she established after this trip to Europe and which she continued throughout her career.

Besides a posthumous exhibition at Howard University in 1949, the whereabouts of Waring's paintings produced in Paris have not been exhibited and their whereabouts are unknown. It remains unknown whether or not these paintings were exhibited during her life or if they continue to exist. In addition to painting, Waring wrote and illustrated a short story with close friend and novelist, Jessie Redmon Fauset. Jessie Redmon Fauset accompanied Waring throughout her travels in France at this time. The short story, "Dark Algiers and White," was written for The Crisis magazine of the NAACP and was later published.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Laura Wheeler married Walter Waring on June 23, 1927. He was from Philadelphia and worked in the public school system as a teacher. When they first married, money was scarce, so they delayed their honeymoon for two years. In 1929, newlyweds Laura Wheeler-Waring and Walter Waring traveled to France for over two months.[5]

Art career[edit]

Waring was among the artists displayed in the country's first exhibition dedicated to African-American art, held in 1927 by the William E. Harmon Foundation.[3] She was commissioned by the Harmon Foundation to do portraits of prominent African Americans.[3] Her work was soon displayed in American institutions, including the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.[4]

Death[edit]

Wheeler-Waring died on February 3, 1948, in her Philadelphia home after a long illness.[4]

Works[edit]

  • A Dance in the Round (1935)
  • Nude in Relief (1937)
  • Heirlooms (watercolor)[1]

Selected portraits[edit]

W.E.B. DuBois - NARA - 559200.jpg James Weldon Johnson - NARA - 559201.jpg "Anne Washington Derry" - NARA - 559139.jpg
W. E. B. Du Bois James Weldon Johnson Anne Washington Derry

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bontemps, Arna Alexander; Fonvielle-Bontemps, Jacqueline (Spring 1987). "African-American Women Artists: An Historical Perspective". Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women 4 (1): 17–24. 
  2. ^ "Abyssinian Congregational Church", Portland Freedom Trail, 2007
  3. ^ a b c Art and Culture: Exploring Freedom/Laura Wheeler Waring, African American World, PBS-WNET
  4. ^ a b c Biography: "Laura Wheeler Waring", Black Past.org, accessed 28 January 2014
  5. ^ a b c Leininger-Miller, Theresa (Summer 2005). "'A Constant Stimulus and Inspiration': Laura Wheeler Waring in Paris in the 1910s and 1920s". Source: Notes in the History of Art 24 (4): 13–23.