Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William H. Warrick and Emma Jones Warrick. She was a multi-talented artist who wrote poetry, painted, and sculpted; her “art celebrating Afrocentric themes.” The French press named her “the delicate sculptor of horrors” and Auguste Rodin described her as “one of the most imaginative Black artists of her generation.”*
Fuller was generally considered one of the first African-American female sculptors of importance and a member of the Harlem Renaissance.* Fuller studied with Raphaël Collin and was mentored by painter Henry Ossawa Tanner.*** She became one of the most effective chroniclers of the black experience within the context of the American experience. Her sculptures represented life, nature, religion and the nation. Fuller’s work symbolized a new black identity that was emerging through the Renaissance and represented a pridefulness in African and black heritage and identity. *
Referring to African Americans, Fuller wrote, “Here was a group who had once made history and now after a long sleep was awaking, gradually unwinding the bandage of its mummied past and looking out on life again, expectant but unafraid and with at least a graceful gesture.” Created at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance, Ethiopia is widely considered the first Pan-African American work of art.**
Fuller was the first African-American woman to receive a commission from the U.S. government. In 1906, Fuller created a series of dioramas depicting African-American life and culture in the United States at the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition. The dioramas included historical events such as 1619 when the first Africans were brought to Virginia and were enslaved to Frederick Douglas delivering a commencement address at Howard University.***
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