Discovering William A. Harper (research in progress)

“The Trees” or “Early Afternoon France”. Oil on canvas. 20″ x 26″ Possibly 1905. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. Accession No. 2015.587. Acquired 2015.

Project Overview

In the first decade of the 1900s, William A. Harper was the pride of the Chicago Art Institute.  After his untimely death in 1910, his name was forgotten by all but a few scholarly publications and informed collectors.  The last decade, however, has seen a resurgence of interest in this extraordinary artist.  As a result, his paintings now hang in such renowned institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.  For the Harper paintings uncovered to date, including those in private collections, go to the “Paintings Gallery” in the tabs above. Over forty have been identified out of approximately one hundred twenty titles found in period records.

Several books have provided brief summaries of Harper’s life.  This website intends to take a deeper look into Harper, his history, and his art.  No correspondence or other papers of Harper appear to have survived, so what is known of him comes from newspaper articles, magazine articles, exhibition catalogues, and third-party letters.  The goal of this website is to collect and organize primary source material and contemporaneous articles in order to share Harper’s story, and to hopefully correct some errors that have appeared in various publications.  I also hope to uncover new information from readers whose attics or basements may contain Harper paintings, sketchbooks, or letters, or other material referencing Harper which will help fill out his story. For a comprehensive review of Harper’s life, go to the “Biography” tab above. The section provides a summary biography, and then detailed chapters on his life and work.

Sections of this website will be completed as the research is compiled, and will be the subject of editing and improvement as new material becomes available.  Areas where more research is needed are marked.

This website is, and will be, A WORK IN PROGRESS.

I look forward to any assistance that a reader can provide.

Janet A. Nussbaum, Researcher and Author

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Anyone is welcome to quote or use material from this website, but please be sure to credit the website: