Jacob Lawrence 1917–2000
Jacob Lawrence is one of the most celebrated African American artists of the 20th Century. He is best known for his Migration Series, a series of sixty paintings depicting the African American migration to the North from the South after World War I, which was exhibited at the Downtown Gallery in 1942, making Lawrence the first African American to join the gallery. Although Lawrence employs many tenets of Cubism, he was also influenced and taught by the African American community of Harlem. His works have focused on depicting the struggles and history of African Americans. Lawrence was elected into the National Academy of Design in 1971, elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983, and received the U.S National Medal of Arts in 1990. His works are in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Phillips Collection, the National Gallery of Art, among others.
Jacob Lawrence was born in New Jersey in 1917, and moved to Harlem when he was thirteen. Lawrence was introduced to art through after school arts and crafts classes. He dropped out of school at sixteen and continued attending art classes at the Harlem Art Workshop. Lawrence received a scholarship to the American Artists School and worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Lawrence was drafted into World War II in 1943 and served in the United States Coast Guard in the first racially integrated crew. After returning to New York, Lawrence remained in New York until 1970 when he and his wife Gwendolyn Knight moved to Seattle. He was an art professor at the University of Washington for over fifteen years. He died in 2000.