(American, born July 23, 1909–died August 27, 1979) is a painter of Afro-Caribbean descent, known for his expressionistic paintings influenced by music as well as the aesthetic legacy of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, he developed an interest in art from a young age, and was encouraged to pursue an artistic career by his art teacher, Augusta Savage
(American, 1900–1962), who provided him with an open studio space at the Harlem Art Center. During the 1930s, Lewis was employed by the Works Progress Administration, working with fellow WPA artists, such as Jackson Pollock
(American, 1912–1956), who would later become the leaders of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. In 1934, Lewis joined the Harlem 306 Group, consisting of prominent African American artists and scholars, including Savage, Ralph Ellison
(American, 1913–1994), Romare Bearden
(American, 1911–1988), and Jacob Lawrence
(American, 1917–2000). His work became increasingly abstract throughout the 1940s, his recognizable forms eventually reduced to free-flowing designs evocative of jazz music. Although he remained well under the radar of most critics during the height of Abstract Expressionism, he continued to teach, and in 1963 founded the SPIRAL group with like-minded African American artists who sought to use their art to contribute to the Civil Rights Movement. Towards the end of his life, he finally achieved recognition from the art world, earning grants from the Mark Rothko Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in the 1970s. He died unexpectedly in 1979 in New York.