New York City
Dr. John Biggers influenced the course of African-Americans both as an artist and as an educator. His love and devotion to art lifted him from ramshackle beginnings in North Carolina to founding the distinguished Texas Southern University Art Program.
During his development as a painter, he applied for and received a fellowship from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) to tour Africa. Admired by his peers as well as his students, John Biggers’s murals are a record of America’s maturation. Particularly significant is his work The Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education, which featured black icons like Harriet Tubman and Sojouner Truth.
The struggle of the African-American against the shards of slavery form the bulk of John Biggers’s work. His torment is understandable; in 1950, the Houston and Dallas Museum of Art hosted a celebratory reception in his honor, but he could not attend because of his race. Most formative were his years under the tutelage of Viktor Lowenfield, a Holocaust refugee and art teacher. Lowenfield taught Biggers to appreciate his own culture, not simply assimilate into another. Biggers’s love for African art began with Lowenfield’s encouragement. His work conveys both pity and pain, but still contains optimism for the future of blacks in America. “I learned a long time ago that self-dignity and racial pride could be consciously approached through art,“ Biggers stated.
Sharecroppers, mural, 1948 (Penn State University, State College, PA). http://johnbiggers.com/
Metamorphosis, lithograph, 1974-75 (Private collection)http://johnbiggers.com/
Untitled, oil on canvas, 1994 (North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC). http://artnc.org/sites/default/files/Biggers%2C%20Untitled%2C%202001.13_0.jpg
Birth from the Sea, mural, 1966 (Texas Southern University, Houston, TX) http://archive.tsu.edu/pages/2583.asp?item=10803
Sweeney, Jason. “John Biggers.” June 12, 2010. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbi43
Taylor, Erica. “Little Known Black History Fact: John Biggers.” May 27, 2013. http://blackamericaweb.com/2013/05/27/little-known-black-history-fact-artist-john-biggers/
Humanities Texas. “John Biggers.” 2014. http://www.humanitiestexas.org/programs/tx-originals/list/john-biggers