© 2018 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY
Jacob Lawrence, one of the most important visual artists of the twentieth century, devoted his life to representing the African-American experience in a modern, figurative style. Born in New Jersey, Lawrence moved to Harlem and eventually to Seattle, Washington; his Seattle studio is shown here.
One of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, Lawrence was exceptional in his ability to forge a successful art career during the early years of the civil rights movement. His art concerned the genesis, exodus, and eventual apotheosis of the Black subject, and this late print bears traces of this long output. His best known work, The Migration Series, represented the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North.
In a flattened, angular style, Lawrence places his own hands at the center of the composition, emphasized by the dynamic lines of the pitched ceiling and red railing. Here, Lawrence traces the story of his life in art: we see him surrounded by the material proof of his genius in his Seattle studio. A view to an urban scene outside his window is reminiscent of his past. Describing The Studio in a year 2000 interview, Lawrence said, “This is what my studio looked like going up the steps… And these buildings back here bring somewhat of the tenements of New York. In reality, this is an empty wall. So I decided to put that back…as a sort of symbol of my thinking of the big city, of New York.”
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