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John Thomas Biggers 1921-2001


Known for his narrative murals and outstanding draftsmanship, John Biggers dedicated his work to the depiction of the human condition. Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, he studied at Hampton Institute (1941-1946) - later renamed Hampton University - under Victor Lowenfeld and Charles White. In 1943, Biggers’s mural "Dying Soldier" was featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark exhibition "Young Negro Art", organized by Lowenfeld. After serving in the United States Navy (1943-1945), he enrolled in Pennsylvania State University (where Lowenfeld had relocated), earning a B.S. and M.S. (1948), and Ph.D. (1954). In 1949, Biggers moved to Houston, Texas where he founded and then chaired the art department at Texas Southern University. In 1950, he was awarded first prize at the annual exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for his painting, "The Cradle". In 1957, he traveled to Africa on a UNESCO grant to study Western African cultural traditions, becoming one of the first black artists to travel to Africa. This opportunity, which he described as “the most significant in my life’s experiences,” led to the publication of "Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa" (1961), a book of drawings and text based on his journeys in Ghana, Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Whether drawing African women dancing or creating one of his twenty-seven public murals, Biggers drew inspiration from his ancestral heritage, African art, Southern black culture, nature, and everyday experiences. Often labeled a social realist for his figurative social commentary of the 1940s, Biggers did work continually evolved over five decades, and in 1995, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Hampton University Art Museum organized his first comprehensive retrospective, exposing the depth of his oeuvre. John Biggers died in 2001, leaving behind a body of work that, as Maya Angelou stated, “leads us through his expressions into the discovery of ourselves at our most intimate level.” BIOGRAPHY FROM: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Title: Four Seasons

Date: 1990
Size: 27.5" x 36"

Title: Longview
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