From 1920 and into the 1930's, an unprecedented outburst of creative activity among African-Americans occurred in all fields of art. Beginning as a series of literary discussions in the lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and upper Manhattan (Harlem) sections of New York City, this African-American cultural movement became known as "The New Negro Movement" and later as the Harlem Renaissance. More than a literary movement and more than a social revolt against racism, the Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African-Americans and redefined African-American expression. African-Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage and to become "The New Negro," a term coined in 1925 by sociologist and critic Alain LeRoy Locke.
One of the factors contributing to the rise of the Harlem Renaissance was the great migration of African-Americans to northern cities (such as New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.) between 1919 and 1926. In his influential book The New Negro (1925), Locke described the northward migration of blacks as "something like a spiritual emancipation." Black urban migration, combined with trends in American society as a whole toward experimentation during the 1920s, and the rise of radical black intellectuals — including Locke, Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and W. E. B. Du Bois, editor of The Crisis magazine — all contributed to the particular styles and unprecedented success of black artists during the Harlem Renaissance period. - artmovements.co.uk
Romare Bearden (September 2, 1911–March 12, 1988) worked in several media including cartoons, oils, and collage.
He studied under German artist George Grosz at the Art Students League in 1936 and 1937. At this time his paintings were often of scenes in the American South, and his style was strongly influenced by the Mexican muralists, especially Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. Shortly thereafter he began the first of his stints as a case worker for the New York Department of Social Services. During World War II, Bearden joined the United States Army, serving from 1942 until 1945. He would return to Europe in 1950 to study philosophy at the Sorbonne under the auspices of the GI Bill.
Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 - June 9, 2000) was an African American painter; he was married to fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism", though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem.
Lawrence is among the best-known twentieth century African American painters, a distinction shared with Romare Bearden. Lawrence was only in his twenties when his "Migration Series" made him nationally famous. The series of paintings was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune magazine. The series depicted the epic Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North.
Aaron Douglas (May 26, 1898 – February 3, 1979) was an African American painter and a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
The style Aaron Douglas developed in the 1920s synthesized aspects of modern European, ancient Egyptian, and West African art. His best-known paintings are semi-abstract, and feature flat forms, hard edges, and repetitive geometric shapes. Bands of color radiate from the important objects in each painting, and where these bands intersect with other bands or other objects, the color changes.
Lois Mailou Jones (November 3, 1905 – June 9, 1998) was an African American Harlem Renaissance painter. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was an incredibly talented artist that continues to influence many today.
While developing her own work as an artist, Jones also spent many years teaching and encouraging others. She began her teaching career at the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina making $1,000 a year, where she set up an entire art department while coaching a basketball team, teaching folk dancing, and playing piano for Sunday church services. She was asked to join the faculty at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1930, where she became one of the founders of the art department and remained as professor of design and watercolor painting until her retirement in 1977.