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Laura Wheeler Waring (1887-1948)


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Born in Hartford, Laura Wheeler came from a prominent New England family. Her father was a minister at Connecticut’s first all black church, and her mother, a graduate of Oberlin College, was a teacher and amateur artist. Wheeler’s intellectual and artistic talents were evident from an early age. She finished high school with honors at a time when few women attended secondary school, and in 1908, she enrolled in courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1914, she won the coveted Cresson Memorial Scholarship, which enabled her to continue her studies in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, but her trip was cut short due to the outbreak of World War I. In 1918, Wheeler returned to Pennsylvania to direct the art and music departments at the historically black Cheyney State Teachers College, where she met her husband, Walter E. Waring, a professor at Lincoln University. During her long career in education, she continued to pursue her own artistic ambitions, arranging additional trips to Europe to further her study

in the arts, illustrating a cover of The Crisis (The Strength of Africa, 1924), painting, and directing the “Negro Art” exhibit at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition (1926). In 1927, she received the Harmon Award for achievement in fine art. Waring is best known for her insightful portraits of prominent African Americans. In 1943, the Harmon Foundation commissioned a painting series from her and Betsy Graves Reyneau entitled Portraits of Outstanding American Citizens of Negro Origin. Waring contributed paintings of W.E.B. DuBois, George Washington Carver, Marian Anderson, James Weldon Johnson, and others. She achieved substantial success as an artist, and her work has been shown at institutions in the United States and Europe, including the Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris (1943); the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (1944 and 1997); and the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1949).


Howard University Gallery, Washington, DC
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC