Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, Urban Artist

Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, NJ on September 1917. He and his siblings moved many times as his family sought sustainable work. At the age of 13, he arrived in Harlem, New York, where he became interested in the arts. Although he dropped out of high school, Lawrence continued to take art classes and was so dedicated and impressive that he received a scholarship to the American Artist School in New York at age 19.

Upon graduating, he received funding from the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project because of his unique take on modernist style. During this time, Lawrence completed his most famous work, The Migration Series, a narrative series of paintings about the dispersal of Black Americans from the South to cities in the North and West during the 20th Century. Soon after, Lawrence was drafted to serve in WWII. While serving in the Coast Guard, he was tasked with chronicling the war in paintings, but the 50 paintings he created to express his vision were lost and never found. After his service, he was offered a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and completed his next most famous work, War Series. After spending years depicting the war, Lawrence returned to New York and admitted himself to Hillside Hospital in Queens due to depression. While there, he continued to paint, but his style became much more melancholy than his normal bright array of colors. Once he was better, he taught art at several universities and ultimately earned a tenured position at the university of Washington in Seattle.

Some of his awards include the U.S. National Medal of Arts, The Washington Medal of Merit, and the NAACP Spingarn Medal.

Click here to see Jacob Lawrence’s collection.

Citation and further reading: https://www.biography.com/artist/jacob-lawrence