Jacob Lawrence

An African-American Artist during the 20th Century

“This is my genre...the happiness, tragedies, and the sorrows of mankind as realized in the teeming black ghetto.” - Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence Biography

Jacob Lawrence was born on September 7, 1917 in Atlantic City, New Jersey but was raised in Harlem, New York. He took interest in art at about age 13 at after school classes. Although he dropped out of school at age 16 he continued his art classes. He continued these classes until 1937 when he got a scholarship to American Artists School in New York. He graduated in 1939. When he did graduate he had already developed his own unique style that he called "dynamic cubism" and released 20-30 paintings at a time. Because he was deeply moved by the Harlem Renaissance, he focused mainly on the same topics as the artists from that movement. He was first noticed nation wide when he released his best know series called "The Migration Series" in 1941. Lawrence also got married around the same time. When WW ll broke out he was drafted into the coast guard and painted while on the ship. All of those paintings were unfortunately lost. When the war ended Lawrence released his "War Series" and went to teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He soon left the southern college for Washington University and taught and painted there until he retired. Jacob Lawrence died on June 9th, 2000.
These paintings are important because they are a part of Jacob Lawrence's most famous series, "The Great Migration." The series was about Jacob Lawrence's view on the the great migration. The first painting (No. 3) is a group of African-Americans traveling to the north. The second painting (No. 15) portrays a lynching. Lynching was a common reason for moving to the north. The final painting (No. 49) depicts discrimination in the north. It was much less severe, but was still there.

How Jacob Lawrence Influenced Others

One of the most obvious ways that Jacob Lawrence influenced others is that he was a teacher. He was best known for teaching at the University of Washington but taught many other places across the country like Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Lawrence also inspired others through his artwork. All of his paintings focused on African-American past struggles and future hope. These paintings could have given hope to African-American kids all across the country who now know that they should take pride in their skin color.

Comparing Jacob Lawrence

The paintings below compare Jacob Lawrence to a modern artist. Her name is Alexandra Nechita. The two cubist painters don't have much in common other than their artwork. Lawrence painted his portrayal of African-American life and released 20-30 paintings at a time. Nechita has a more warmhearted and lovey style and usually paints one piece at a time. If you put that aside it's hard to tell which painting belongs to who. Lawrence's painting on the left and Nechita's in the middle seem to have the exact same physical features. They both have the same head and sharp angles at the shoulder and elbow.