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Paul Farwell Keene Jr. was an artist best known as a painter and educator who advanced the awareness and importance of African American art and culture. His work speaks to the story of the African American experience of the ‘50s and ‘60s.


Paul Keene was born on August 24, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Paul F. Keene Sr. and Josephine Bond Hebron, co-founder of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. In 1944, he married Laura Mitchell, the great-great-granddaughter of abolitionist John Pierre Burr. They resided in Warrington, Pennsylvania with their son and daughter. Keene earned three degrees including a B.F.A., B.Sc. Ed., and M.F.A. 


During World War II, Keene served with the Tuskegee Airmen in the 332nd Fighter Group and attained the rank of lieutenant. After the war, he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris under the G.I. Bill. While in Paris, Keene was a founding member of Galerie Huit in, a collective gallery for American artists. Keene exhibited with Picasso and Léger at the Salon de Mai. Through Whitney Fellowships he directed courses at the Centre d'Art, Port-au-Prince, Haiti between 1952 and 1954.


Keene’s experiences in Paris and Haiti would set the foundation of his unique artistic voice. His tenure in Haiti directly influenced his subject matter of heroes, mythological figures, Vodou religion and dramatic use of color.


Keene taught at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, as well as the Philadelphia College of Art, where he taught until 1968. From 1968 through 1985 Keene taught at the Bucks County Community College, where he helped to establish a new art department. He had a two-decade-long association with the Brandywine Workshop and was the recipient of their Van Der Zee Award in 1990. Keene died on November 26, 2009, in Pennsylvania.


African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA

Brandywine workshops and Archives, Philadelphia, PA

British Museum, London, England

Cheyney University Art Museum, Cheyney, PA

Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX

Francis M. Maguire Art Museum, Marion, PA

James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA

James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD

Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs, FL

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C

Palmer Museum of Art, University Park, PA

Petrucci Family Foundation, Asbury, NJ

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI

Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, NY

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA

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