The Influence of African Americans on Early Modern Art


The Early Modern Era

The Early Modern Era had taken place during the 19th century. During this Era, there were many new styles added to the arts. In the Early Modern Era, music was transformed, and a genre of music was developed Jazz. Photographs captured important events during the century including the Great Depression. The visual arts had been transformed in the 19th century. African Americans had an influence on the arts during the 19th century. The influence of African Americans on the arts developed into the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance had influenced the culture of African Americans and had expressed this culture through art during the Early Modern Era.

Early Modern Art

Idylls of the Deep South 


Aaron Douglas, Idylls of the Deep South, 1934

Idylls of the Deep South was created by Aaron Douglas (1898-1979) in 1934 in Harlem. Aaron Douglas was a Harlem Renaissance artist who exemplified the ‘New Negro’ philosophy. The painting is a part of the four-panel series Aspects of Negro Life.

In the painting Idylls of the Deep South captures the myth of the “happy southern plantation” by capturing the theme of African Americans on a plantation. The painting seems to capture a group of African Americans dancing and playing music. While the actions of the individuals in the painting reflect a celebration vibe, the color use does not. The color scheme chosen for the painting appears to be red and dark. When I had first viewed the painting I did not relate the singing and dancing to be happy but have a darker meaning behind them. I appreciate the meaning behind the painting and the color scheme that was chosen to represent the history within the painting. This element of the painting allows the audience to understand the myth of the southern plantations. The painting had an impact on the African American communities in Harlem.

Evening Attire


Evening Attire, 1922, by James Van Der Zee

The photograph Evening Attire was taken by James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) in 1922 in Harlem, New York. James Van Der Zee was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. The influence of the African Americans in the Early Modern Era can be seen in his photographs during the 19th century.

The photograph above depicts the individual as elegant, as the elements around the sitter portray that description. The beaded gown to the background of decorative items allows the audience to view this individual as elegant. This photographic portrait reminds me of portraits that were painted in the Romantic Era in the 18th century. This observation developed from the pose of the individual to the use of the decorative items and the victorian backdrop that can be viewed in portraits from the Romantic Era. I appreciated the photographic portrait as there are details within the painting that reflect a painted portrait. This photograph exudes beauty and elegance from the individual in the portrait due to the elements within the photo. From the elements in the photograph was can understand an aspect of the influence of African Americans in the Early Modern Era.

Maple Leaf Rag

Maple Leaf Rag was composed by Scott Joplin (1868-1917) in 1899 in Sedalia, Missouri. This musical piece is an early ragtime piano composition. From Scott Joplin’s compositions, he was called the “King of Ragtime”.  The new music had blended march tempos and the “ragged” rhythms that were present in the Midwest where African American musicians were known to gather.  Maple Leaf Rag became one of America’s first pop hits and had been influenced by African Americans.

When listening to Maple Leaf Rag it became apparent that musical movements from the 19th century can be heard in present day music. The tempo induces the audience to dance and may present itself as upbeat. I recognized  Maple Leaf Rag when I have first listened to the song. I personally had enjoyed the musical composition and the upbeat tempo. The influence the song had on the culture in the 19th century was not lost as it can be heard in our culture today.


Levnag, Rex. “100 Years of the Maple Leaf Rag.” Minnesota Public Radio. N.p., May 1999. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

“Maple Leaf Rag.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

“Evening Attire.jpg.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

“James Van Der Zee.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Unknown. “Narratives: Aspects of Negro Life: An Idyll of the Deep South, Aaron Douglas.” Narratives of African American Art and Identity. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Urton, Robin. “Eyeconart: The Harlem Renaissance.” Eyeconart. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Unknown. “Jazz Timeline.” A Passion for Jazz. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Art-mus-thr200. “Early Modern Music.” ARTMUSTHR F200. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.


3 thoughts on “The Influence of African Americans on Early Modern Art

  1. I love the topic you chose for this blog– the Harlem Renaissance was such a powerful movement that had strong influences on music, art, and the overall culture of America, so it’s really cool to see how it all got started. When talking about “Idylls of the Deep South”, you mention the myth of “the happy southern plantation” and I am curious to know what that myth entails and how exactly Douglas ridicules it. Overall, really good quality content here and I love how powerful these three pieces were, especially in respect to Modernism! Britannica has a really good article on the Harlem Renaissance and how it got started, if you’re interested!


  2. Your blog was so informative! In past classes, when we’ve learned about at during different periods, the Harlem Renaissance is glossed over. It’s always something I’ve wanted to know more about. I like that you include photography in your exhibit. Do you think that the art styles of the Harlem Renaissance are still used by artists today? I wonder what kind of impact it has had on modern works.


  3. I also did my blog post on the influences of African Americans and I really liked reading your point of view. I liked the choices you made for the art/music you chose. I usually listen to instrumental music while studying and I really love Jazz music and Maple Leaf Rag is still a very familiar piece that has stayed relatively popular. I particularly loved your photograph you chose to share about the evening attire! One thing I did notice was that your References all were hyperlinked to open into a new tab, but the links provided inside your blog would open in the same window!
    Really great job on your post overall though 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s