Howard University Famous Artists

Loïs Mailou Jones. David Driskell. Alma Thomas. Elizabeth Catlett. Howard University famous artists.

The more investigation into America’s great Black artists I conduct, the more I keep reading about Howard University. The Historically Black College and University in Washington, D.C. comes up so frequently in my research, I was inspired to “Google:” ‘Howard University famous artists.’

Not satisfied with any of the search results, I determined to compile them myself. Look at the products of the Howard University Department of Art.

Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998) taught at Howard University from 1930-1977 – WOW! – training multiple generations of artists including Driskell, Catlett and Sylvia Snowden.

David Driskell (1931-2020) earned his undergraduate degree in liberal arts from Howard University in 1955 and went on to teach there in the early 1960s.

David C. Driskell (American, 1931–2020), 'Self-Portrait,' 1953, oil on board, collection of the Estate of David C. Driskell, Maryland. © ESTATE OF DAVID C. DRISKELL. COURTESY DC MOORE GALLERY, NEW YORK. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUC DEMERS.
David C. Driskell (American, 1931–2020), ‘Self-Portrait,’ 1953, oil on board, collection of the Estate of David C. Driskell, Maryland. © ESTATE OF DAVID C. DRISKELL. COURTESY DC MOORE GALLERY, NEW YORK. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUC DEMERS.

Alma Thomas (1891-1978) became the first graduate of Howard University’s newly formed art department in 1924.

Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) earned her Bachelor of Science in Art, cum laude, from Howard University in 1935.

Elizabeth Catlett, Which Way?, 1973–2003, lithograph, 11 x 14 1⁄2 in. (27.5 x 37 cm), edition 4 of 25. Courtesy of the Elizabeth Catlett Family Trust.
Elizabeth Catlett, Which Way?, 1973–2003, lithograph, 11 x 14 1⁄2 in. (27.5 x 37 cm), edition 4 of 25. Courtesy of the Elizabeth Catlett Family Trust.

James Herring (1887-1969) founded the Howard University Department of Art in 1922. In 1943, along with Alonzo J. Aden, he opened the Barnett-Aden Gallery in D.C. The gallery was the first Black privately owned and operated art gallery in the United States.

Gwendolyn Knight (1913-2005) is perhaps best known as Jacob Lawrence’s longtime wife, but she was an exceptional artist in her own right, attending Howard for a time in the 1930s before money trouble as a result of the Great Depression forced her to leave school and return to Harlem.

James Lesnesne Wells (1902-1993) became a crafts instructor at Howard University in 1929. He was a leading printmaker.

James Porter (1905-1970) entered Howard in 1923, turning down a scholarship offer from Yale. He performed so well as a student that, upon graduating in 1927, he was offered a teaching position.

Percy Ricks (1923-2008). Lou Stovall (1937- ).

Malkia Roberts (1927-2010) completed the fine arts program at Howard University at age 19.

Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian (1937-2003) was the first contemporary artist from Africa (Ethiopia) to have work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He began teaching at Howard in the 1970s.

Hughie Lee Smith (1915-1999) was an artist-in-residence at the school and later taught there.

One of my favorite artists, Mildred Thompson, earned her BA at Howard in 1957.

Mary Lovelace O’Neal (1942- ) earned her BFA from Howard in 1964.

Bisa Butler earned her BFA from Howard in 1995 and is one of the most important contemporary artists of the 21st century. Her portrait quilts have revolutionized the medium and what is expected from the walls of art museums.

Amber Robles-Gordon earned her MFA in painting From Howard University in 2011.

Howard University famous artists from the visual artists only scratch the surface of Howard University graduates’ impact on American culture. Toni Morrison, Roberta Flack, Phylicia Rashad, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Stokely Carmichael, Zora Neale Hurston, Sean Combs, Chadwick Boseman, Alain Locke. All of these actors, musicians and writers attended Howard University.

Amazing.

If you find yourself in Washington, D.C., stop by the Howard University Gallery of Art to find these famous Howard University artists and many more.

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