Produced on May 16, 1887, in Hartford, Connecticut, Laura Wheeler Waring was an African American teacher and artist who became known for her portraits; the areas she painted contain W.E.B. Du Bois and Marian Anderson. An associate of the NAACP, Wheeler also given many illustrations to its magazine, The Crisis. Her dad was the pastor at a historical African American church while her mom was a teacher and amateur artist; Wheeler herself started drawing and painting in a young age. Strengthened by her parents’ encouragement, she left home to be able to pursue her interest in artwork. In Pennsylvania, Wheeler became a part time teacher in art and music in the Cheyney Training School for Teachers (now called Cheyney University). She also studied at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She managed to see museums in England and France, but had to cut her tour brief when World War I erupted.
After returning to America, Wheeler restarted working at Cheyney, where she’d eventually head the section of artwork and music. To find out the best way to best instruct her pupils in drawing, she took summer courses at Harvard and Columbia universities. Along with teaching, she also traveled abroad again; on one excursion, she could study in the Acadmie de la Grande Chaumire in Paris.
Though she loved working with African American activists like W.E.B. Du Bois, her teaching obligations in Pennsylvania kept her from heavier involvement in the Harlem Renaissance. Wheeler’s paintings included landscapes and still lifes, but she’s best known for her work in portraiture, where she captured both unknown and well-known figures.
In the late 1920s, several of Waring’s paintings were portion of a Harmon Foundation display that featured the work of African American artists. She was singled out from the foundation once more when eight of her portraits were revealed in a 1944 display entitled “Portraits of Exceptional American Citizens of Negro Origin.” The well known figures she painted because of this display contained Marian Anderson, Jessie Fauset and James Weldon Johnson.
After a prolonged sickness, Waring died at age 60 in Philadelphia on February 3, 1948. Her work, which frequently fought stereotypes and shown achieved African Americans, was another step traveling toward civil rights. In her life, she’d her paintings revealed at establishments like the Brooklyn Museum as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, a lot of the portraits which make up part of her artistic heritage have been in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.