African-American art is a broad term describing the visual arts of the American black community (African Americans). Influenced by various cultural traditions, including those of Africa, Europe and the Americas, traditional African-American art forms include the range of plastic arts, from basket weaving, pottery, and quilting to woodcarving and painting.
From its early origins in slave communities, through the end of the 20th century, African-American art has made a vital contribution to the art of the United States. During the period between the 17th century and the early 19th century art took the form of small drums, quilts, wrought-iron figures and ceramic vessels in the southern United States; these artifacts have similarities with comparable crafts in West and Central Africa. In contrast, black artisans like the New England–based engraver Scipio Moorhead and the Baltimore portrait painter Joshua Johnson created art that was conceived in a western European fashion for their local markets.
Many slaves arrived from Africa as skilled artisans, having worked in these or similar media in Africa. Others learned their trades or crafts as apprentices to African or white skilled workers. It was often the practice for slave owners to hire out skilled artisans. With the consent of their masters, some slave artisans also were able to keep wages earned in their free time and thereby save enough money to purchase their, and their families, freedom.
G. W. Hobbs, Patrick H. Reason, Joshua Johnson, and Scipio Moorhead were among the earliest known portrait artists, from the period of 1773–1887. Patronage by some white families allowed for private tutorship in special cases. Many of these sponsoring whites were abolitionists. The artists received more encouragement and were better able to support themselves in cities, of which there were more in the North and border states.
Harriet Powers (1837–1910) was an African-American folk artist and quilt maker from rural Georgia, United States, born into slavery. Now