Andrew Turner was one of Philadelphia’s most prominent artists. His paintings depicting inner-city life and musical themes are sought by collectors nationwide. His style was distinctive. His flair for artistic conception and creation second to none.
Turner was born in 1944 in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was educated in the public school system in Chester, right after the desegregation of public schools. Turner graduated from Chester High School. He often spoke of the very liberal education he received due to the integration of public schools and would further indicate that his education from grades one to twelve did not give him any concept of the history of his own community or roots. There was no legacy that he was aware of. Turner would say, “I went on to college for formal training. It was like carrying an affliction of sorts because there was really no legacy for me to carry on. No expectation for me to live up to with regard to the arts.” Andrew started to believe that he had to be this pioneering Black guy in the arts with no past heros or previous record.
In the late 1960’s, after a tour in the Army, Turner entered college. From formal training his artistic heroes were Van Gogh, Cezanne and Rembrandt. During this time it was easy to call yourself an artist while hanging around the “flower children”, the hippies and those that associated with the so called “Beat Generation”.
However, as the civil rights struggle gained momentum with leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and others, Turner discovered that he indeed had his own roots. Young people were protesting to have Black studies in the classroom. Folks were wearing dashikis and natural hair styles. He discovered that there was a Black contribution to the arts – Joshua Johnston, Henry Osawa Tanner, Langston Hughes and so on. Studying the Black contribution to the arts and humanity in general added legitimacy to what he was doing as an artist. It was through these experiences that Andrew Turner realized and would say, “That was the period that I discovered that I indeed had roots in the area of the fine arts. First it blew me away because I have to keep up with some bad boys and girls that had done it before me. It also helped me to say to myself that my experiences, my background and my neighborhood is legitimate fodder for expression. I think that was the point that I could really begin to call myself an artist”.
Turner earned his B.F.A. from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. He was also an exchange student artist in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China.
He taught art in the Chester Public School system and in several correctional institutions. Over the course of his artistic career, Turner created thousands of paintings, drawings, lithographs and serigraphs, both figurative and abstract.