Jacob Lawrence (American, September 7, 1917–June 9, 2000) was a painter whose works were the first by an African American to be included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, NJ, and he moved with his siblings to New York when he was 13 years old. Lawrence's mother enrolled him in art classes in Harlem to keep him occupied. During this time, the budding artist liked to copy the patterns on his family's carpet and draw them with crayons, and one of his art teachers recognized the young boy’s talent.

Lawrence dropped out of school at the age of 16 and took up work in a laundry and printing firm, while at the same time attending art classes at the Harlem Art Workshop. These classes were taught by Charles Alston (American, 1907–1977), who urged the teenager to start attending the Harlem Community Art Center. Lawrence got a paid position at the center and had the opportunity to study with different renowned Harlem Renaissance artists, including Henry Bannarn (American, 1910–1965). After marrying Gwendolyn Knight (American, 1913–2005), who was also a student of Savage, Lawrence joined the United States Coast Guard in 1943, during the Second World War. He continued to paint during his time with the Coast Guard.

Examples of Lawrence's work include The Builders (1947), Carpenters (1977), and Builders - Green Hills (1998). In 1947, Lawrence taught at Black Mountain College, in Black Mountain, NC. He also taught design and figure drawing at Pratt Institute in New York. Lawrence moved to Seattle, WA, and joined the University of Seattle as an art professor, staying there from 1971 to 1983. Lawrence's paintings have been exhibited in various different places, including Downtown Gallery, New York (1953), San Antonio Museum of Art, TX (1996), and Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (2000). Lawrence received numerous awards and recognitions including the Spingarn Medal (1970) and The Washington Medal of Merit in 1998. Lawrence's work is represented by the Artists Rights Society. Lawrence died in Seattle, WA, on June 9, 2000.

Timeline

1917
Born in Atlantic City, NJ
1930
Moved to Harlem, New York, NY
1934–1939
Attended the Harlem Art Workshop, New York, NY
1939–1941
Worked on Federal Arts Project as part of Works Progress Administration
1943–1945
Served in the US Coast Guard and Navy during WWII
1947
Taught at Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, NC
1953
Received an American Academy of Arts and Letters grant
1955–1970
Taught design and figure drawing at Pratt Institute, New York, NY
1971–1983
Taught at University of Washington, Seattle, WA
2000
Died in Seattle, WA

Exhibitions

2010
Jacob Lawrence, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
2006
Jacob Lawrence: Tales of Freedom, Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA (solo)
2005
Jacob Lawrence: Three Series of Prints, Genesis, Hiroshima, and Toussaint L'ouverture, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL (solo)
2004
Jacob Lawrence's War Series, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
2001–2003
Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (solo)
2001
Jacob Lawrence Memorial Exhibition, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2000
Jacob Lawrence: Games, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA (solo)
The Toussaint L'Ouverture Series, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (solo)
1999
The Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman Series of Narrative Paintings, Albany Museum of Art, Albany, GA (solo)
1998
Lives Connected: Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN
1996
Jacob Lawrence: The Hiroshima Paintings, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, TX (solo)
Jacob Lawrence: An American Society in Transition, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX (solo)
1995
Jacob Lawrence: War Series, The Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York, NY (solo)
1994
Jacob Lawrence Inaugural Exhibition, Paintings 1972-1984, Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (solo)
1992
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (retrospective)
Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (retrospective)
1986
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (retrospective)
1984
Fifty Year Retrospective, Jamaica Arts Center, Jamaica, NY (retrospective)
1974–1975
Jacob Lawrence Retrospective Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (retrospective)
1969
The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (solo)
1960
Jacob Lawrence, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (retrospective)
1953
Downtown Gallery, New York, NY

Public Collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
Museum of the National Academy of Design, New York, NY
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, WI
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE

Literature

2010
Hills, Patricia. Painting Harlem Modern: The Art of Jacob Lawrence. California: University of California Press, 2010
2000
Nesbitt, Peter T.; DuBois, Michelle, Jacob Lawrence, Paintings, Drawings and Murals (1935-199) A Catalogue Raisonne' , University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA
2000
Nesbitt, Peter T.; DuBois, Michelle, Over The Line the Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA
1986
Wheat, Ellen. Jacob Lawrence, American Painter. Washington: University of Washington Press, 1986