Laura Wheeler Waring

Last updated
Laura Wheeler Waring
Laura Wheeler Waring.jpg
Born(1887-05-16)May 16, 1887
DiedFebruary 3, 1948(1948-02-03) (aged 60)
Nationality American
Known forPainter
Spouse(s)Walter E. Waring

Laura Wheeler Waring (May 16, 1887 February 3, 1948) was an African-American artist and educator, best known for her paintings of prominent African Americans that she made during the Harlem Renaissance. [1] She taught art for more than 30 years at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania. [2]


Early life

Black and white reproduction of Heirlooms, 1916 New York Watercolor Club Exhibition Heirlooms by Laura Wheeler 1916 New York Watercolor Club Exhibition catalog.png
Black and white reproduction of Heirlooms, 1916 New York Watercolor Club Exhibition

Laura Wheeler was born on May 16, 1887, in Hartford, Connecticut, the fourth child of six, to Mary (née Freeman) and Reverend Robert Foster Wheeler. Her mother was a daughter of Amos Noë Freeman, a Presbyterian minister, and Christiana Williams Freeman, who had been prominent in anti-slavery activities, including the Underground Railroad in Portland, Maine and Brooklyn, New York. [3]

In 1906, Waring began teaching part-time in Philadelphia at Cheyney Training School for Teachers (later renamed Cheyney State Teachers College and now known as Cheyney University.) She taught art and music at Cheyney until 1914 when she traveled abroad to Europe. Her occupation at Cheyney was time-consuming, as it was a boarding school and she was often needed to work evenings and Sundays. This left her without much time to practice art. 1906–1914 were slow years for her artistic career as a result of this. Waring worked long hours teaching art, sometimes spending summers teaching drawing at Harvard and Columbia for additional money.

After she returned from Europe, she continued to work at Cheyney and did so for more than thirty years. In her later years at Cheyney, she was the director of the art programs. In 1914 Laura Wheeler-Waring was granted a trip to Europe by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’ William E. Cresson Memorial Scholarship. She studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France and traveled throughout Great Britain. While living in Paris, Wheeler-Waring frequented the Jardin du Luxembourg. She painted Le Parc Du Luxembourg (1918), oil on canvas, based on a sketch she made during one of her recurrent visits. Wheeler-Waring also spent much time in the Louvre Museum studying Monet, Manet, Corot and Cézanne. "I thought again and again how little of the beauty of really great pictures is revealed in the reproductions which we see and how freely and with what ease the great masters paint." [4]

Wheeler-Waring planned on traveling more to Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, but her trip was cut short when war was declared in Europe. After being in Europe for three months, she was required to return to the United States. Waring's trip at the time had very little effect on her career, but it has been remarked as a major influence on her and her work as an artist. Receiving the scholarship gave her the time to evolve as an artist and, as the award was highly regarded, she also gained publicity by it. [4]


Laura graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1906 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, graduating in 1914. [2]

Time in Paris (1924–1925)

After the end of the war, Waring returned to Paris in June 1924. Her second trip to Paris was regarded to be a turning point in her style as well as her career. Waring described this time as the most purely art-motivated period in her life, the "only period of uninterrupted life as an artist with an environment and associates that were a constant stimulus and inspiration." [5] For approximately four months, Waring lived in France, absorbing French culture and lifestyle. She began to paint many portraits, and in October enrolled to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére, where she studied painting. Instead of soft, pastel tones she painted a more vibrant and realistic method. Houses at Semur, France (1925), oil on canvas, has been noted by art historians the painting that marked Waring's change in style. Her use of vivid color, light, and atmosphere in this work is characteristic of the style she established after this trip to Europe and which she continued throughout her career.

Besides a posthumous exhibition at Howard University in 1949, Waring's paintings made in Paris are not believed to have been exhibited and their whereabouts are unknown. In addition to painting, Waring wrote and illustrated a short story with close friend and novelist, Jessie Redmon Fauset. Fauset accompanied Waring throughout her travels in France at this time. Waring wrote the short story, "Dark Algiers and White," for The Crisis magazine of the NAACP, and it was later published. [4]

Personal life

Laura Wheeler married Walter Waring on June 23, 1927. He was from Philadelphia and worked in the public school system as a teacher. When they first married, money was scarce, so they delayed their honeymoon for two years. In 1929, the newlyweds traveled to France, spending more than two months there. They had no children. [4]

Art career

Waring was among the artists displayed in the country's first exhibition of African-American art, held in 1927 by the William E. Harmon Foundation. [6] She was commissioned by the Harmon Foundation to do portraits of prominent African Americans and chose some associated with the Harlem Renaissance. [6] Her work was soon displayed in American institutions, including the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [7] She currently has portraits in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.


Wheeler-Waring died on February 3, 1948, in her Philadelphia home after a long illness. [7] A year later, Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. held an exhibition of art in her honor. [8]


Selected portraits

W.E.B. DuBois - NARA - 559200.jpg James Weldon Johnson - NARA - 559201.jpg "Anne Washington Derry" - NARA - 559139.jpg
W. E. B. Du Bois James Weldon Johnson Anna Washington Derry

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Mary Cassatt American painter and printmaker

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker. She was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, but lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

Tamara de Lempicka Polish painter

Tamara Łempicka was a Polish painter who spent her working life in France and the United States. She is best known for her polished Art Deco portraits of aristocrats and the wealthy, and for her highly stylized paintings of nudes.

Jessie Redmon Fauset American novelist

Jessie Redmon Fauset was an African-American editor, poet, essayist, novelist, and educator. Her literary work helped sculpt African-American literature in the 1920s as she focused on portraying a true image of African-American life and history. Her black fictional characters were working professionals which was an inconceivable concept to American society during this time Her story lines related to themes of racial discrimination, "passing", and feminism. From 1919 to 1926, Fauset's position as literary editor of The Crisis, a NAACP magazine, allowed her to contribute to the Harlem Renaissance by promoting literary work that related to the social movements of this era. Through her work as a literary editor and reviewer, she discouraged black writers from lessening the racial qualities of the characters in their work, and encouraged them to write honestly and openly about the African-American race. She wanted a realistic and positive representation of the African-American community in literature that had never before been as prominently displayed. Before and after working on The Crisis, she worked for decades as a French teacher in public schools in Washington, DC, and New York City. She published four novels during the 1920s and 1930s, exploring the lives of the black middle class. She also was the editor and co-author of the African-American children's magazine The Brownies' Book. She is known for discovering and mentoring other African-American writers, including Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay.

Alice Neel American painter

Alice Neel was an American visual artist, who was known for her portraits depicting friends, family, lovers, poets, artists, and strangers. Her paintings have an expressionistic use of line and color, psychological acumen, and emotional intensity. Neel was called "one of the greatest portrait artists of the 20th century" by Barry Walker, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which organized a retrospective of her work in 2010.

Lois Mailou Jones American artist

Loïs Mailou Jones was an influential artist and teacher during her seven-decade career. Jones was one of the most notable figures to attain notoriety for her art while living as a black expatriate in Paris during the 1930s and 1940s. Her career began in textile design before she decided to focus on fine arts. Jones looked towards Africa and the Caribbean and her experiences in life when painting. As a result, her subjects were some of the first paintings by an African-American artist to extend beyond the realm of portraiture. Jones was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance movement and her countless international trips. Lois Mailou Jones' career was enduring and complex. Her work in designs, paintings, illustrations, and academia made her an exceptional artist that continues to receive national attention and research.

Henry Ossawa Tanner American painter

Henry Ossawa Tanner was an American artist and the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim. Tanner moved to Paris, France, in 1891 to study, and continued to live there after being accepted in French artistic circles. His painting entitled Daniel in the Lions' Den was accepted into the 1896 Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Faith Ringgold American artist

Faith Ringgold is a painter, writer, mixed media sculptor and performance artist, best known for her narrative quilts.

Alexina Duchamp American art dealer

Alexina "Teeny" Duchamp was the wife of Pierre Matisse, daughter-in-law of artist Henri Matisse, and second wife of artist and chess player Marcel Duchamp.

Martha Walter was an American impressionist painter.

Laura Knight English artist

Dame Laura Knight,, was an English artist who worked in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and drypoint. Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition and who embraced English Impressionism. In her long career, Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

Jane Peterson American painter

Jane Peterson (1876–1965) was a graduate of Pratt Institute and an American Impressionist and Expressionist painter. Her works are created in Impressionist and Expressionist styles using broad swaths of vibrant colors to combine an interest in light and in depiction of spontaneous moments and are well known for vivid, rich painted still life, beach scenes along the Massachusetts coast. Her works are housed in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C, and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Philadelphia Museum of Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller American artist

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller was an African-American artist notable for celebrating Afrocentric themes. She was known as a multi-talented artist who wrote poetry, painted, and sculpted but was most noted for her sculpture. At the turn of the twentieth century, she had achieved a reputation as a well-known sculptor in Paris before returning to the United States. Warrick was a protegée of Auguste Rodin, and has been described as "one of the most imaginative Black artists of her generation. She created work with strong social commentary; for instance, she made a sculpture of Mary Turner, a young, married and pregnant black woman who was lynched in Georgia in 1918 the day after protesting the lynching of her husband. Warrick is considered a forerunner of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement among African Americans promoting their literature and art.

Augusta Savage American sculptor

Augusta Savage was an African-American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a teacher whose studio was important to the careers of a generation of artists who would become nationally known. She worked for equal rights for African Americans in the arts.

Ethel Carrick (1872-1952) artist

Ethel Carrick, also known by her married name of Ethel Carrick Fox, was an English-born Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painter. Much of her career was spent in France and in Australia, where she was associated with the movement known as the Heidelberg School.

Lillian Genth American artist

Lillian Mathilde Genth was an American impressionist artist. She is best known for her depiction of female nudes in landscape settings. However, in the middle of her career she swore off painting female nudes and began painting more conservative paintings inspired by her travels. In about 30 years Genth appeared in 233 exhibitions, and while well renowned for her paintings while alive, her story and artwork have been lost in the retelling of American art history.

Lucy May Stanton American painter (1875-1931)

Lucy May Stanton was an American painter. She made landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, but Stanton is best known for the portrait miniatures she painted. Her works are in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Self-Portrait in the Garden (1928) and Miss Jule (1926) are part of the museum's permanent collection.

<i>Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring</i> painting by Laura Knight

Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring is a 1943 painting by the British painter Laura Knight depicting a young woman, Ruby Loftus (1921–2004), working at an industrial lathe as part of the British war effort in World War II. The painting was commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee (WAAC), and is now part of the Imperial War Museum's art collection. The painting brought instant fame to Loftus, and has been likened to the American figure of "Rosie the Riveter".

May Howard Jackson American sculptor

May Howard Jackson was an African-American sculptor.

<i>Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti)</i> painting by Tamara de Lempicka

Autoportrait is a self-portrait by the Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, which she painted in Paris in 1929. It was commissioned by the German fashion magazine Die Dame for the cover of the magazine, to celebrate the independence of women. It is one of the best-known examples of Art Deco portrait painting.

Mary Swanzy HRHA was an Irish landscape and genre artist. Noted for her eclectic style, she painted in many styles including cubism, fauvism, and orphism, and was one of Ireland's first abstract painters.


  1. 1 2 Bontemps, Arna Alexander; Fonvielle-Bontemps, Jacqueline (Spring 1987). "African-American Women Artists: An Historical Perspective". Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. 4 (1): 17–24. ISBN   9780815322184.
  2. 1 2 "Laura Wheeler Waring". Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame.
  3. "Abyssinian Congregational Church". Congregational Library & Archives. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Leininger-Miller, Theresa (Summer 2005). "'A Constant Stimulus and Inspiration': Laura Wheeler Waring in Paris in the 1910s and 1920s". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 24 (4): 13–23. doi:10.1086/sou.24.4.23207946. JSTOR   23207946.
  5. Kirschke, Amy Helene (August 4, 2014). Women Artists of the Harlem Renaissance. University Press of Mississippi. p. 77. ISBN   9781626742079.
  6. 1 2 Art and Culture: Exploring Freedom/Laura Wheeler Waring, African American World, PBS-WNET
  7. 1 2 Mennenga, Lacinda (May 30, 2008), "Laura Wheeler Waring (1887–1948)", Black, accessed January 28, 2014.
  8. "Laura Wheeler Waring | American artist". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  9. "Anna Washington Derry by Laura Wheeler Waring / American Art".
  10. Thomas, Alma; Fort Wayne Museum of Art (1998). Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings . Pomegranate. pp.  22. ISBN   9780764906862.