Tanner was one of the first African-American artists who achieved international fame. While he was an expatriate American in Paris, he nevertheless exhibited his work frequently in U.S. exhibitions. To give his religious subjects authenticity, he traveled more than once to the Middle East and North Africa to sketch the people and places of the Bible. His first trip to the Middle East was financed by his patron Rodman Wanamaker (of department store fame). Tanner lived long enough to be an inspiration to painters in the Harlem Renaissance movement. Today, his paintings are prized by American art museums.