Harmon Foundation Collection: Artwork by Black Artists

Today’s blog post was written by Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

At the National Archives there are several collections affiliated with the federal government that has records relating to the African and African American experience. One such collection is the Harmon Foundation Collection that contains photographs of paintings, sculptures and portraits from black artists, including Palmer Hayden, Jacob Lawrence, Charles White and Selma Burke.

The Harmon Foundation was established in 1922 by William E. Harmon to support and to give acknowledgement to black artists in the United States and abroad. The foundation provided exhibits, scholarships and awards for black artists to showcase their work in a public space. After the foundation terminated in 1967, the board donated its entire collection to the National Archives.

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The series Artworks by Negro Artists, 1922-1967 (National Archives Identifier 558790) consists of images depicting the African and African American experience. Most of the artwork in this series was exhibited during the 1920s and 1930s in various venues across the country. Many of these images can be found through the Online Public Access (OPA) system.

Sargent Johnson (1888-1967) was an African American artist from California who was known for his abstract figurative and early modern styles. He was a painter, sculptor and potter who used ceramic, clay, wood and watercolor in his artwork.

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Augusta Savage (1892-1962) was an African American sculptor and teacher from Florida. She began making clay sculptures of animals as a child and continued her craft while living in New York City during the 1920s. Savage was an activist for African American artists and fought for equal rights within national and international art circuits.

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Ronald Moody (1900-1984) was a Jamaican born sculptor, who specialized in wood carvings. Moody taught himself how to sculpt while studying in Europe. Many of his sculptures were sent to the Harmon Foundation to be used in exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art.

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James A. Porter (1905-1970) was an artist and art historian. His artistic and academic work provided the foundation for the critical evaluation of African American art. Porter taught art history at Howard University and published Modern Negro Art in 1943, which was one of the first studies on African American art history.

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Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian (1937-2003) was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was a painter and art teacher. Boghossian was the first contemporary African artist to have his work purchased by the Musee d’Art Modeme in Paris in 1963 and he taught at Howard University from 1972 to 2001.

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