African American Artists & The Harmon Foundation

The Harmon Foundation is best known for having served as a large-scale patron of African-American art that helped gain recognition for artists who otherwise might have remained unknown.

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

The Harmon Foundation

The William E. Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement Among Negroes was created in 1926. It was known as an award for excellence in the visual arts, but was offered for distinguished achievement in many different fields among Negroes or in the cause of race relations. This helped art education programs grow in many areas.

Exhibition of the work of Negro Artists, 1931

In addition to the awards, the Foundation is well known for its traveling exhibitions. An annual Exhibition of the Work of Negro Artists, conceived by Mary Brady, was held in 1927 through 1931, 1933, and 1935.


Cover artwork: Chester by Sargent Johnson

Exhibitions of Productions of Negro Artists, 1933

Cover artwork: Woman Holding A Jug, by James A. Porter

Negro Artists, Illustrated Review of their Achievements,1935

Cover artwork: Thinnin' Corn by Malvin Gray Johnson

Exhibition of the Works of Negro Artists, Exhibition of the Productions by Negro Artists, Negro Artists: An Illustrated Review of Their Achievements by Harmon FoundationThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Palmer Hayden

Palmer Hayden was the first recipient of the Harmon Foundation Award in 1926, winning the gold medal in the Fine Arts category for his watercolor "Schooners"   

Gusting Up to 35 by Palmer HaydenThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection


Among the many recipients of the awards were Hale Woodruff, Palmer Hayden, Archibald Motley (his winning piece was The Octoroon Girl), Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.

The Kinsey Collection is the proud repository of many works created by artists who were Harmon Foundation winners and participants.

Hale Woodruff

Georgia Youth, 1934


Also in 1926, Hale Woodruff won bronze medal in the Fine Arts category for his work "Two Women".


Hale Woodruff was born in 1900 in Cairo, Illinois. After high-school he drew political cartoons part-time for the black newspaper, the "Indianapolis Ledger". 


His art studies included the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis; Art Institute of Chicago; Harvard's Fogg Museum School; and Académie Moderne in Paris with Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1927.

Georgia Youth by Hale WoodruffThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Hale Woodruff

Parisian Cubism, 1927

After developing his work while living in Paris, he returned to the US in 1931. He established the art department at Atlanta University in the depths of the Depression, beginning a forty-year teaching career. Woodruff created the Atlanta Annuals, exhibitions for black artists.

In the late 1930s, he painted black history murals for Atlanta's Talledega College Slavery Library that reflect the influences of the great mural painters of the age, Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. Woodruff had recently studied in Mexico with Rivera.

Woodruff may be best known for these works, but the artist also produced, at this time, prints of black lynchings and poverty.

Parisian Cubism by Hale WoodruffThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

In 1943, Woodruff went to New York City for two years on a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation. Though he would return for a year to his Atlanta teaching position, this essentially marked the end of that experience and the start of his life in New York as an abstract painter and member of the faculty at New York University. He would retire from NYU in 1967.

Laura Wheeler Waring

Woman Wearing Orange Scarf, ca. 1940

Waring studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, graduating in 1914. She was a prominent portraitist whose works were exhibited in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian. Waring was commissioned to paint the Harmon Foundation’s series Portrait.

Woman Wearing Orange Scarf by Laura Wheeler WaringThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

John Wesley Hardwick

River Landscape, 1940

River Landscape by John Wesley HardwickThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

May Howard Jackson

Portrait Bust of an African, 1899

Born of middle-class means in Philadelphia, Mae Howard Jackson was influential in American sculpture and African American artistic pedagogy. Jackson was the first African American woman to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, receiving a full scholarship.

She was mentored by pioneering African American sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller, but decided against following Fuller to Paris to continue her studies. Instead, Jackson married, settled in Washington, D.C. and became a mentor to many other black artists.

She taught as an art instructor at Howard University, teaching and influencing notable artists including James Porter and Sargent Johnson.

Portrait Bust of an African by May Howard JacksonThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Sargent Johnson

Untitled, 1957 

Sargent Johnson

Untitled, 1957 

Untitled by Sargent JohnsonThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

James Lesesne Wells

Boy’s Head, 1931 

James Lesesne Wells

Boy’s Head, 1931 

Boy's Head by James WellsThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Langston Hughes

Dinner Guest: Me, 1950

Dinner Guest: Me by Langston HughesThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Langston Hughes

Jim Crow's Last Stand, 1943

No. 2 Jim Crow's Last Stance by Langston HughesThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Lois Mailou Jones

Menimsha, 1941

Perhaps one of the most recognized women artists in modern American history, Lois Mailou Jones was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Jones was mentored by sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller and attended the Designers Art School of Boston and later the Académie Julien in Paris.

She is one of the most notable artists to become famous while living as an expatriate. Her subjects were some of the first paintings by an African American to extend beyond the realm of portraiture.

Jones was a prolific artist and teacher at Howard University and earned many honors, among them the Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts bestowed by President Jimmy Carter at the White House in 1980.

Menimsha by Lois Mailou JonesThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Aaron Douglass

Child’s Play, 1950

Child's Play by Aaron DouglassThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Richmond Barthé

The Dancer, 1937

The Dancer by Richmond BartheThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Henry Bozeman Jones

Slim, 1933


Jones was born in Philadelphia in 1889 and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from1908 to 1910. He taught at an elementary school in the city and painted in his free time. He also authored and illustrated a children’s book for the public schools.

His work was shown at the Harmon Awards in Fine Arts and Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1929.  He also exhibited at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library (now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture) in 1933.

His other group exhibitions included the 1944 Atlanta University Third Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures, and Prints by Negro Artists: The Two Generations. The Howard University Gallery of Art includes several of his works.

Slim by Henry Bozeman JonesThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

Beauford Delaney

Untitled, 1963

Untitled by Beauford DelaneyThe Kinsey African American Art & History Collection

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