Almost everywhere you look in Pittsburgh, art, in some form, is staring back at you. From the timeless work of the Steel City’s native son, Andy Warhol, to the numerous paintings, sculptures, and galleries that appear around town, Pittsburgh has evolved from a city known for its production of steel to a hub of technology and innovation—and a center for art and culture. Here are few notable artists, past and present, that are connected with Pittsburgh.
The record well-known artist to appear from Pittsburgh is pop-art icon Andy Warhol. He was born in a working-class neighborhood in 1928 and attended the “Carnegie Institute of Technology” (now known as Carnegie Mellon University). He then started his proficient career as a commercial illustrator in New York City.
Warhol was a renowned painter, sculptor, illustrator, and photographer, but he became a pioneer in the visual arts with a variety of acclaimed works in television, film, music production, fashion, and theater.
Some of his widespread works are his silkscreen paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Diptych, plus the 1966 experimental film entitled Chelsea Girls, and a series of multimedia events called the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
American painter and printmaker Mary Stevenson Cassatt were born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), in 1844. Determined to become a professional artist, she studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia when she was only 15 years old. She would ultimately end her studies and move to Paris.
While in France, she became lifelong friends with fellow artist “Edgar Degas”, one of the founders of Impressionism. Her paintings oftentimes depicted the lives of women, both privately and socially—with an emphasis on the special bond a mother has with her children. Some examples include A Woman and a Girl Driving (1881), The Child’s Bath (1893), and Mother and Child (1905).
One of her most famous paintings, The Boating Party, was reproduced on a U.S. postage stamp.
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Tanner was born into one of Pittsburgh’s Underground Railroad sites in 1859. His family moved to Philadelphia when he was young, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Tanner would eventually find his way to France.
Not only did Tanner become an internationally acclaimed artist, but he was also the first African-American painter to receive such honors. He became a hero to many black Americans. His most famous painting, The Banjo Lesson, depicted an elderly black man teaching a young boy (presumably his grandson) how to play the instrument.
As the years progressed, Tanner delved more into biblical themes, painting the award-winning Daniel in the Lions’ Den plus the critically acclaimed The Resurrection of Lazarus, The Good Shepherd, and more.
William Coventry Wall
The Great Fire of Pittsburgh was one of the most overwhelming events in the city’s history. A third of the town was destroyed in around seven hours during the 1845 catastrophe, and the only visual recollection (aside from fire relics) are the renderings of local artists who viewed the event.
William Coventry Wall was one such artist. Wall was born in Oxford, England, in 1810 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1821. He moved his family to Pittsburgh in 1841 and opened a shop selling frames and artist’s supplies. His shop was destroyed in the fire, but he managed to save enough of his supplies to document the event with a series of paintings, including View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh after the Fire, and Great Conflagration at Pittsburgh.
Sculptor Jim West is known for his monumental figurative works in bronze. West brings a bold style and passion to the contemporary art scene with a new series of interactive sculptures incorporating light, kinetics, and sound.
Some notable work by Jim West
The Bond, Bronze Sculpture – Grand Masonic Museum of Philadelphia, PA
Our Path, Contemporary Steel Sculpture – Sycamore Island
Split Infinity, Contemporary/Figurative Bronze – ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks
The Walk, Figurative Sculpture