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Henry Ossawa Tanner was a very talented American painter who was the first African-American to achieve international acclaim. After moving to Paris, he studied at the Académie Julian and achieved international acclaim for his paintings. In 1893, he began his long journey of artistic development by studying in France. From there, his success grew and his paintings were widely exhibited, gaining him acclaim from French artists.

In Philadelphia, Tanner saw an artist painting on the park walls. He decided to give it a try. He bought scraggy brushes and dried colors and painted for the first time. He was inspired by the artist and eventually moved to Paris to work in a studio there. In the following decades, he travelled to the continent, where he gained international recognition for his paintings. After working in a Paris studio, he returned to the United States only briefly.

In 1895, he traveled to Europe, where he met Thomas Eakins. While he had become a Christian, his father was a devout Roman Catholic. His mother, a slave, was a deeply religious woman and became a missionary. After being recognized, Tanner moved to Europe, where he married Jessie Olssen, a white opera singer. In 1899, Booker T. Washington visited Tanner in Paris and wrote an article about his paintings. He exhibited his work in several cities.

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