Jacob Lawrence

My Oldest daughter is 8, and she had arts school work to learn about the artists Jacob Lawrence, I wasn’t familiar with his work so I chose to do some research myself.

Lawrence is among the best-known 20th-century African-American painters. He was 23 years old when he gained national recognition with his 60-panel Migration Series. I learned he was born on September 7, 1917, and died June 9, 2000. He based many of his paintings of the Harlem Renaissance. 

“He was a quiet individual who listened, looked, watched, absorbed all of what was going on around him,” according to Virginia Mecklenburg, home to nearly a dozen of Lawrence’s works. Lawrence was well known for his portrayal of African-American life. As well as a painter, storyteller, and interpreter, he was an educator. Lawrence taught at several universities including the University of Washington where he was a graduate advisor to lithographer and abstract painter

Lawrence’s subjects and style were deliberate, conscientious choices. He formed his practice during a period when black artists were carefully considering their role and responsibility in depicting African American history and contemporary life.

Lawrence continued to paint until a few weeks before his death from lung cancer in June 2000 at the age of 82. Shortly before his death, he stated: “…for me, a painting should have three things: universality, clarity, and strength. Clarity and strength so that it may be aesthetically good. Universality so that it may be understood by all men.”

His last commissioned public work, the mosaic mural New York in Transit, was installed in October 2001 in the Times Square subway station in New York City.

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