Portrait of Aaron Douglas
Aaron Douglas
Date: American painter and muralist, 1899–1979
Biography: Aaron Douglas was the visual artist most closely associated with the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance in 1920s New York. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Douglas received a BA in art from the University of Nebraska and taught art in Kansas City, before moving to New York to pursue an MA from Columbia University and launch his career as an artist. He also studied with German illustrator Winold Reiss, who encouraged Douglas to look to African art for inspiration. Douglas soon began interpreting African styles and subjects, and his work caught the attention of Alain Locke, sweeping him into the center of the Harlem artistic and literary community. Douglas illustrated Locke's "The New Negro" and contributed to key journals including the NAACP's The Crisis and the Urban League's Opportunity. In 1928, Douglas became the first president of the Harlem Artists Guild, which helped African American artists receive work from the WPA. In 1940, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he founded the Art Department at Fisk University. He remained at Fisk for 29 years.