The Thankful Poor

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Formal Analysis

Formal Analysis



In this formal analysis, we will analyze the artistic masterpiece “The Thankful Poor” by Henry Ossawa Tanner.


Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 21 1859 - 25 May 1937) was an African-American artist who went in pursuit of his arts to Philadelphia where he opened his own drawing studio and taught drawing at the Clark University.

Subject matter

The artist is addressing to the poor people of Rome in this painting, sharing their grief and appreciating that they are still thankful for what they have got in their lives. In 1894, Tanner painted the beautiful work by name "The Thankful Poor”, which is an oil-on-canvas portrait of an elderly black man sitting down to supper with a teenage boy. Their heads are bowed in prayer. The man's coarse hands and the boy's scruffy clothes suggest that they are no strangers to adversity and labour. The table is plain and sparse, but Tanner has captured the holy pair with a feeling of hard-earned distinction, even a savage beauty. The analysis of this painting shows that the painter justifies his thematic expressions using artistic touches of his brush. He deserves to be commended for his works of art, which proves his skilfulness.

Analysis of the painting


In this painting, the artist has played with the lines very well. He used different patterns of lines, both smooth and agitated, to show the various dimensions of the painting and its illustrations. In this painting, the painter drew fine lines to create a shattered image of different works of art. It seems like a aclylatic painting because te effects created proper flow of lines. as the artist is finely drawing the lines to show their expressions. However, it could be clearer if the painter could justify and show their expressions more clearly.

There are implied lines found in this artistic work that shows movement and direction. The artist uses two-linear perspective to define the various dimensions of the painting.


The painter plays with different strokes of the brush, creating an artistic dimension that is well-defined by the artistic touch of the painting. In any piece of work, there are three-dimensional space. Light and Texture

Lighting of the painting is somewhat dim, in a sense that it is not showing the facial expressions of the persons sitting in the painting. However, the light is coming from the upper left direction. The faces are intentionally hided with ...
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