History of the Gallery of Art

Dating from 1870 in its original form as the Historical Picture Gallery, the Howard University Gallery of Art was officially established in 1928 by action of the Board of Trustees to “make revolving exhibitions of contemporary arts and crafts available for visitation and study.” The Gallery formally opened on April 7, 1930 with a traveling exhibition of oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings assembled and circulated by the College Art Association of America.

After the success of this exhibition, a policy and program leading to the development of a permanent collection was adopted. James V. Herring, founder of the Department of Art, and James A. Porter, internationally renowned art historian and critic, were the earliest directors.


Henry O. Tanner’s Return from the Crucifixion, an oil tempera painting, which is the last completed work of the artist, was one of the earliest acquisitions. This historic work is still a jewel of the collection. Since the initial acquisition, numerous purchases and gifts from friends and faculty of the University, private collectors, art foundations, and various branches of the federal government have entered the permanent collection. The artifacts of Alain Locke, the esteemed philosopher, began the encyclopedic collection of African artifacts, while the Kress Foundation set up the collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Other significant contributions and acquisitions have included the Irving Gumbel Collection of European Prints from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Leadership and Staff


Dr. Lisa E. Farrington

Associate Dean for Fine Arts and Director of the Howard University Gallery of Art

Farrington earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Howard University in 1978. She then completed a master’s of arts degree at American University. She also earned a master’s degree in philosophy and a doctorate in art history from the City University of New York Graduate Center.

As an award-winning academic author, Farrington has lectured on three continents and authored or co-authored 10 books and dozens of scholarly essays, including two award-winning historical texts for Oxford University Press: African-American Art: A Visual and Cultural History and Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists. In addition, she was the 2008 Endowed Scholar of the Humanities at Spelman College and won the coveted Creative Capital Writers Award from the Andy Warhol Foundation for her manuscript on African American artist Emma Amos. Please see the full article by Howard Newsroom Staff.

Dr. Farrington's People Profile

Scott Baker

Assistant Director

Art Gallery

Abby Eron


Art Gallery