Artists

Jacob Lawrence
1917–2000



Audio

  • Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945, Spanish

    Jacob Lawrence, Selecciones de la Serie Migración

    Jacob Lawrence, Selecciones de la Serie Migración

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    Henry Louis Gates Jr: Uno de los acontecimientos históricos más importantes de la historia del pueblo afroamericano fue el desplazamiento masivo de la población desde el campo a la ciudad y desde el sur hacia el norte entre 1900 y 1930.

    Narrador: Henry Louis Gates Jr. es Profesor Alphonse Fletcher y Director del Centro Hutchins de Investigaciones Africanas y Afroamericanas de la Universidad de Harvard.

    Henry Louis Gates Jr: Ahora bien, lo que es curioso es que, tras esta agitación social masiva que el desplazamiento causó y reflejó, casi nadie escribió al respecto en el mundo de las artes creativas. En su lugar, fue un artista quien contó la historia. Y ese artista fue Jacob Lawrence.

    Fue el primer pintor afroamericano en combinar una técnica visual sofisticada, e incluso experimental, con la tradición narrativa u oral. En nuestro primer pintor narrativo. La narración es uno de los componentes fundamentales de la tradición afroamericana. Y lo que hizo Jacob Lawrence fue traducir aquella tradición oral a otro medio, un medio nuevo, y ese medio fue la pintura.

    Narrador: Lawrence expresó un gran interés por los muralistas mexicanos, cuyo arte era tan frecuentemente narrativo. Admiró especialmente a Orozco por su atrevido uso del color y la forma.

  • Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945

    Jacob Lawrence, Migration Series

    Jacob Lawrence, Migration Series

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    Henry Louis Gates Jr: One of the most important historical events in the history of the African American people was the massive shift in population from the country to the city, and from the South to the North, between 1900 and 1930. 

    Narrator: Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. 

    Henry Louis Gates Jr: Now what’s curious about it is that despite this massive social upheaval which it caused and which it reflected, almost no one wrote about it in the creative arts. Instead, it was an artist who told the story. And that artist was Jacob Lawrence. 

    He was the first African American painter to combine sophisticated, experimental visual technique with the narrative tradition, or storytelling. He’s our first narrative painter. Storytelling is one of the fundamental components of the African American tradition. And what Jacob Lawrence did was to translate that tradition of oral storytelling into another medium, a new medium, and that medium was painting. 

    Narrator: Lawrence took a deep interest in the Mexican muralists, whose art was also often narrative. He especially admired Orozco for his bold approach to color and form.

  • America Is Hard to See

    Jacob Lawrence, War Series, 1946–47

    Jacob Lawrence, War Series, 1946–47

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    Narrator: Artist Jacob Lawrence.  

    Jacob Lawrence: This is owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art—it’s the War Series. There are 14 paintings in the series, and these are several of those paintings.

    Narrator: Lawrence’s War Series originated during his service on a World War Two navy transport ship. It depicts a range of emotional experiences, from the fear and confusion of combat to the tragedy of loss. Lawrence made a point of showing black and white servicemen together. This reflects part of his experience in World War II. He served with the US Coast Guard, which was then part of the navy. 

    Jacob Lawrence: I served on the USS Sea Cloud, which was a weather patrol ship, and I served on the United States Richardson, which was a troop transport. 

    Narrator: Like most African American sailors, Lawrence was initially classified as a steward’s mate—essentially, a servant for white officers. But his first captain, Lieutenant Commander Carlton Skinner, made his ship, the Sea Cloud the first fully integrated vessel in the US Navy. Captain Skinner helped Lawrence obtain a public relations rating. This allowed him to paint on duty, as ship’s artist. 

    Lawrence began the War Series soon after he was discharged in December, 1945. It was his way of coming to terms with what he’d witnessed. If you’d like to hear more about his experience, tap the button to continue.


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