Jacob Lawrence Essay, Research Paper
Jacob Lawrence is among the most distinguished and accomplished artists of the twentieth-century. His artwork is in every major public collection of twentieth century American art and has been the subject of three nationally touring retrospectives, organized by the American Federation of Arts (1960), Whitney Museum of American Art (1974), and Seattle Art Museum (1986). During his sixty-five year career, he received numerous awards and honors including the National Medal of Arts from President George Bush, the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal, three Julius Rosenwald Fund Fellowships, and more than two dozen honorary degrees. He was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Academy of Design.
Jacob Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1917. In 1930 his family moved to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where as a teenager he attended classes taught by Charles Alston at the Harlem Community Art Center. Following a period in upstate New York spent working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, he returned to art, first on a scholarship to the newly formed American Artists School, and then as an employee in the easel division of the WPA Federal Art Project. In the late 1930s, Lawrence occupied a studio at 306 West 141st Street in the company of fellow artists such as Alston, Romare Bearden, Ronald Joseph, and others.
In 1941, Lawrence gained representation at the prestigious Downtown Gallery, where he met and exhibited alongside artists such as Stuart Davis, Ben Shahn, John Marin, and Charles Sheeler. Lawrence entered the Coast Guard in 1943 and was later assigned to the first racially integrated ship in U.S. history. He was released from military duty in December 1945. In the summer of 1946, at the invitation of Josef Albers, he taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
Lawrence began teaching extensively in 1955, first at Pratt Institute in New York, and later at New School for Social Research, the Art Students League, and Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In 1962, he visited Africa for the first time; he returned in 1964 to lecture, teach and paint. In 1971, he and his wife, Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, moved to Seattle, where he taught at the University of Washington until 1986.
Jacob Lawrence passed away in June 2000. His estate is handled by the DC Moore Gallery, New York, and Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle.