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George Walker

George Walker
Usage Conditions Apply
George Walker at his Steinway D in his Music Room
Frank Schramm, born 1957
George Walker, 27 Jun 1922 - 23 Aug 2018
July 10, 2010 (printed 2017)
Inkjet print
Image: 38 × 50.8 cm (14 15/16 × 20")
Sheet: 43.4 × 56 cm (17 1/16 × 22 1/16")
Mat: 55.9 x 71.1 cm (22 x 28")
Music\Musical instrument\Piano
Music\Sheet music
Art implements\Frame
George Walker: Male
United States\New Jersey\Essex\Montclair
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Frank Schramm
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© 2017 Frank Schramm
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Washington, D.C.
In 1996, George Walker became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music with his composition Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra. This was one of many firsts for the virtuoso pianist and classical composer, who challenged expectations and charted his own course in a career spanning eight decades. A superior student, he was the first black graduate of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music and the first black instrumentalist to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra (1945). Despite this promising start, Walker faced racial discrimination that severely limited his performance opportunities as a pianist. He responded by pursuing dual careers as a teacher and composer, producing more than ninety works that have placed him at the forefront of contemporary classical music. In these photographs, Walker appears framed by his home piano and captured in the act of scoring a composition—something he always did entirely by hand.
Nacido en Washington, D.C.
En 1996, George Walker se convirtió en el primer afroamericano que ganó el premio Pulitzer de música con su composición Lilacs, para voz y orquesta. Este fue uno de los numerosos hitos de este magistral pianista y compositor clásico que desafió los prejuicios para trazar su propio rumbo en una carrera de ocho décadas. Estudiante destacado,
Walker fue el primer graduado afroamericano del Instituto de Música Curtis de Filadelfia, y el primer instrumentista negro que se presentó con la Orquesta de Filadelfia (1945). A pesar de este comienzo prometedor, a discriminación racial
limitó en extremo sus oportunidades como pianista. Decidió entonces emprender una doble carrera de maestro y compositor, llegando a crear más de 90 obras que le han dado prominencia en la música clásica contemporánea. En estas fotos aparece enmarcado por el piano de su casa y en el proceso de orquestar una composición, algo que siempre hizo manualmente.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Currently not on view