Jacob Lawrence’s American Struggle

In March, the Seattle Art Museum will host a timely exhibition, Jacob Lawrence:  The American Struggle. Best known for his work The Migration Series, Lawrence set his sight on the American Revolution creating a series of 30 painted panels between 1954 and 1956, focusing on historical events occurring from 1775 to 1817. It is interesting to note that Lawrence developed this series during another time of struggle and strife in the country, the Civil Rights era.

The Seattle Art Museum’s show will reunite these works for the first time since 1958.

For some artists, their work is to create visual narratives. Through their work they provide their singular perspective on historical events. Such is the work of Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence brings us to key moments of a history centuries away that, yet, links to the present.

Today, One Mighty and Irresistible Tide of history sweeps over the nation. As you are well aware, we have been visited upon by multiple, simultaneous struggles that have swept us up Against Wind and Tide of forces unforeseen in our lifetime. Continue reading “Jacob Lawrence’s American Struggle”

Where I’m Bound: African Americans and Migration in Art and Life

Click here to view Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series in the SPL catalogIt began with a poem! Reading the Langston Hughes poem One-Way Ticket inspired Jacob Lawrence to make a sketch of a train station waiting room filled with travelers, travelers like the ones seeking The Warmth of Other Suns. As a boy who became an artist, he knew about traveling. Lawrence moved from city to city and house to house until his mother, finally, found a place in Harlem for them to call home.

I was part of the migration,“ he says “as was my family… I was only
about 10, 11, or 12. I didn’t realize that we were even a part of that….I didn’t
realize what was happening until the middle of the 1930s, and that’s
when the Migration series began to take form in my mind.” 

In 1941, at the age of 23, Lawrence began painting works in a series that would become known as The Migration Series. Bookended by World War I and World War II, the work portrays an exodus, at once sweeping and, yet, singular in its focus. Long before his wet brush met a dry canvas, Lawrence had steeped himself in the works of writers and intellectuals focused on the Black migration and the role of the artist in art and culture. Where did he do so? At the library! The New York Public Library’s Division of Negro History, Literature and Prints, now known as The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, was instrumental in the artist’s development and formation of the work.  Continue reading “Where I’m Bound: African Americans and Migration in Art and Life”