Allan R. Freelon

Life Dates

Allan Freelon (1895–1960) was born into a professional Philadelphia family that valued education as a ladder to success and responsibility. Freelon was the first African American artist to be awarded a four-year scholarship to the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts). He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in fine art from Temple University. After serving in World War I, he obtained a teaching post in the Philadelphia public schools, where he would serve his entire career as art supervisor for elementary and secondary education. He also taught printmaking at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

While working as a teacher, Freelon continued his career as an artist. He studied alongside Philadelphia printmakers Dox Thrash and Earl Horter, supplementing his training with a two-year course at the Barnes Foundation. The 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library held his first solo exhibition, in 1921, and his work was included in the 1929 exhibition American Negro Artists.

Although he is best remembered for his impressionistic landscapes, Freelon also used his art to confront harsh social realities: his painting Barbecue, American Style, for example, was included in the 1935 exhibition Art Commentary on Lynching, held in New York City.

Freelon died in 1960, in Telford, Pennsylvania.

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