Artist John Biggers has been called, “a canvas master of the human condition.” He was born to a poor family of nine in Gastonia, North Carolina. By age 13, Biggers had lost both his father and sister to diabetes. As the youngest, Biggers and his brother were sent away to study at Lincoln Academy to release some of the burden endured by his widowed, single mother.
It was in 1941 that Biggers met his mentor, Victor Lowenfeld, a Jewish refugee from Germany, at Hampton University. Lowenfeld encouraged his students to study and paint African culture. Soon Biggers would be a part of one of the most prestigious exhibits at the Modern Museum of Art, but then he was drafted in the U.S. Navy in 1946, where he served before returning to get his PH.D. by 1954.