Jacob Lawrence


Artist Biography:

Born in 1917, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Jacob Lawrence was 13 when he moved to New York City. Lawrence was introduced to art when his mother enrolled him in classes at an arts and crafts settlement house in Harlem; where his teacher recognised his talent and great potential. He continued to study art, firstly under the tuition of the noted African-American artist Charles Alston. Then jointly with Henry Bannarn in the Alston-Bannarn workshop. At just 23, he gained national recognition for ‘The Migration Series’, a vivid 60-panel sequence of narrative paintings that characterised the birth of his self-described ‘dynamic cubism’. It was exhibited in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, and brought him national recognition. In the 1940s Lawrence was given his first major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and became the most celebrated African-American painter in the country. During the second World War, Lawrence enlisted and served with the first racially integrated crew in the United States Coast Guard; All the while he continued to paint and sketch. Heralded as one of the most influential painters of his generation, his depiction of the fundamental struggles of the American Civil War and Civil Rights Movement are explored through a use of bold, consistent colours and distinctive composition. His work has been exhibited internationally and is held in the permanent collections of museums worldwide; including ‘The Builders, (1947)’ which hangs in the White House Green Room. Lawrence continued to paint until a few weeks before his death in June 2000 at the age of eighty-two. The New York Times described him as "One of America's leading modern figurative painters" and "among the most impassioned visual chroniclers of the African-American experience."

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