John Thomas Biggers (1924–2001) was a major African American artist who inspired countless others through his teaching, murals, paintings, and drawings. After receiving conventional art training at Hampton Institute and Pennsylvania State, he had his personal and artistic breakthrough in 1957 when he spent six months in the newly independent country of Ghana. From this time forward, he integrated African abstract elements with his rural Southern images to create a personal iconography. His new approach made him famous, as his personal discovery of African heritage fit in well with the growing U.S. civil rights movement. He is best known for his murals at Hampton University, Winston-Salem University, and Texas Southern, but the drawings and lithographs that lie behind the murals have received scant attention—until now.
Theisen interviewed Dr. Biggers during the last thirteen years of his life, and was welcomed into his studio innumerable times. Together, they selected representative works for this volume, some of which have not been previously published for a general audience. After his death in 2001, his widow continued to work closely with Theisen, resulting in a book that is intimate and informative for both the scholar and the student.
"Dr. Theisen had unequalled access to Dr. Biggers’ widow, as well as many of his friends and family. This unprecedented access gives the book a completeness and readability that sets it apart from other literature about the artist and gives the reader a sense of the character of the man as well as of his art. Its charm and readability will appeal to a wide range of readers."—R. William McCarter, Regents Professor Art, University of North Texas