Individual: ENT.0337

Jacob Lawrence

1917 – 2000

Faculty, Summer 1946

One of the most widely regarded American artists of the 20th century, Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) is known for his paintings, drawings, and prints that hover between abstraction and socially inspired narrative realism, chronicling African-American history and experience during his lifetime. Lawrence was one of the first artists to be trained by the African American community of Harlem, receiving special attention from sculptor Augusta Savage, leader of the Harlem Community Art Center. He developed a style of “dynamic cubism” which abstracted the subject into planes of color and gave a sense of movement to the canvas. As a young man, Lawrence painted a 60-panel set titled Migration Series, which explored the lives and struggles of the thousands of African Americans who migrated from the rural South to Northern cities seeking a better life. The series was exhibited in 1944 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, gaining national recognition for the painter.

In 1946, Josef Albers invited Lawrence to teach at the Summer Art Institute at Black Mountain College. It was his first teaching position, and in later years he spoke about the impact of Josef Albers and the Bauhaus teaching legacy on his own ideas about teaching. After that summer, Lawrence returned to New York where he continued to paint, receiving many prestigious fellowships and showing in major galleries in the city. In 1971 he accepted a teaching position at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he and his wife, also a painter, remained until his death in 2000.