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Madame Lillian Evanti

Going abroad to succeed

Annie Lillian Evans (1890–1967) began singing in her early teens in Washington, D.C., honing her talent at community events with the goal of performing classical grand opera. Becasue of racial barriers, she decided that Europe offered more opportunities: “I’m going to learn to sing professionally under the best vocal teacher in Paris, then come back here and show what I can do.” Known as Madame Evanti, in 1925 she became the first African American to sing with a European opera company.

Portrait of Lillian Evans Tibbs Evanti

P. H. Polk, born Bessemer, AL 1898-died Tuskegee, AL 1984
Lillian Evans Tibbs
Madame Lillian Evanti
Exhibition Label
A stately Russian wolfhound recruited for this portrait accentuates the poise and glamour of Lillian Evans Tibbs. Known professionally as Madame Evanti, this Washington native was an internationally acclaimed lyric soprano and the first African American to sing with the Paris Opera. P.H. Polk treated his clients as collaborators, claiming, “If you can’t touch a person in some way, you don’t get a good picture.” His portrait of Lillian Evans Tibbs was designed to reveal her personality, rather than to promote her celebrity status.
A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2013
African American
Performing arts\music\voice
Portrait female\full length
Portrait female\full length
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Graphic Arts
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr.
Data Source
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
gelatin silver print
image: 10 3/8 x 8 in. (26.4 x 20.3 cm) sheet: 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (34.3 x 26.7 cm)
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