View Full Essay
Scott L. Smith S Art 101
Jacob Lawrence was born in New Jersey, but was raised in New York City’s Harlem. He taught and spent fifteen years as a professor at the University Of Washington. Lawrence was the most widely acclaimed African-American artist of the twentieth century. Lawrence is known for producing narrative collections like the “Migration Series”, and “War Series.”
Lawrence moved with his parents to Easton Pennsylvania at the age of 2, but his parents separated in 1924. He was put in foster care in Pennsylvania with two of his other young siblings. When he was thirteen, Lawrence joined his mother in New York City, where he was introduced to art shortly after this. His mother enrolled him in Utopia Children’s Center, where there was an art program. In 1937, Lawrence won a scholarship to the American Artists School in New York.
When Lawrence graduated in 1939, he already developed his own style of modernism and painting thirty or more paintings on one subject. His best known series was the Migration of Negro in 1941. It was exhibited at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in 1942, making him the first African-American to join the gallery. He was also drafted into the U.S. Coast Guard, during World War II. When his tour of duty ended, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and painted the “War Series.” After all of this he went back to New York, where he continued to paint.
He grew depressed and in 1949 he checked himself into Hillside Hospital in Queens, where he stayed for eleven months. He married Gwendolyn Knight, a sculptor and painter in 1941. She supported his work providing both assistance and criticism, and also helped him compose captions for his series. In 1991, Lawrence accepted a position as a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he taught until he retired in 1986. He continued to paint until a few weeks before his death on June 9, 2000.x