You can tell a lot about people from what they hang on the walls of their home. The paintings in the White House demonstrate the different influences and experiences of the American people.

While the White House has its own permanent collection of art, it also has become a tradition for presidents and their families to borrow artworks from the Smithsonian museums to display there. Recent decades have seen an increase in African-American art on display.

In honor of Black History Month, we look at the works of African-American artists currently on display at “The People’s House.”

 “Lift Up Thy Voice and Sing” by William H. Johnson

(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

William H. Johnson was an esteemed painter of the 20th century whose style evolved from realism to expressionism to a powerful folk style for which he is best known. Six of his works are on loan to the White House.

“Resurrection” by Alma Thomas

(White House Historical Association [White House Collection])
An educator and artist in Washington for most of her career, Alma Thomas was one of the renowned members of the Washington Color School. The unveiling on February 10 of Thomas’ “Resurrection” marked the first time the work of an African-American woman entered the permanent White House collection.

“The Builders” by Jacob Lawrence

(White House Historical Association [White House Collection])
Jacob Lawrence is among the best-known of African-American painters. He cited the New York neighborhood of Harlem as a primary influence on his work. “The Builders” is displayed in the Green Room of the White House.

“Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City” by Henry Ossawa Tanner

(White House Historical Association [White House Collection])
Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first African-American artist to gain international recognition. He was the first black student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where his work was admired by his instructor, American painter Thomas Eakins.