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Jacob Lawrence Art

American, 1917-2000

One of the first Black artists to receive national acclaim in the United States, Jacob Armstead Lawrence (1917–2000) was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then to Harlem, New York, in 1930. While enrolled in a community after-school arts program, Lawrence developed his talents as a painter, drawing praise and encouragement from artist Charles Alston, who ran the program at the time. Despite his family’s financial struggles during the Great Depression, Lawrence continued his pursuit of the arts, developing a series of multipanel realist paintings dedicated to iconic Black historical figures, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. In 1938, he had his first solo exhibition at the Harlem YMCA and had begun to work for the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

In 1940, Lawrence received a grant from a philanthropic organization called the Rosenwald Fund, which allowed him to begin what would become his most famous work: The Migration Series, a narrative piece comprised of casein tempera paint on 60 18-by-12-inch hardboard panels featuring captions he’d written before he began to paint. (Fellow artist and future wife Gwendolyn Knight helped with the text.) Lawrence’s series focuses on the Great Migration of Black Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North between 1910 and 1940.

By the end of the 1940s, Lawrence had earned widespread recognition for his important work and was the most celebrated Black artist in the United States. He continued covering Black historical figures throughout his career, though he also painted social commentaries on contemporary issues, like World War II and civil rights. He taught at the Art Students League in New York and at Black Mountain College in North Carolina (upon invitation from artist Josef Albers), among other institutions.

Lawrence’s works can be found in the collections of many major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and elsewhere. His painting The Builders hangs in the White House today, as it was acquired by the White House Historical Association in 2007.

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Artist: Jacob Lawrence
original lithograph
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Henderson, NV
Medium: original lithograph. This lithograph was printed in 1954 for the "Improvisations" portfolio, published by the Artists Equity Association of New York on the occasion of the 19...
Category

1950s Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Lithograph

The Relay Race : Passing the Baton - Lithograph (Olympic Games Munich 1972)
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Paris, FR
Jacob Lawrence The Relay Race: Passing the Baton Lithograph poster Signature printed in the plate On heavy paper 101 x 64 cm (c. 40 x 26 inch) Made for the Olympic Games in Munich, ...
Category

1970s Modern Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Lithograph

Play
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Long Island City, NY
This print is based on the fourth image from The Life of Harriet Tubman series (1940). Play Jacob Lawrence, American (1917–2000) Date: 1999 Screenprint, signed, dated, titled and nu...
Category

1990s American Modern Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Screen

THE BUILDERS 1985 Vintage Fine Art Poster, 1st Edition, Men Working Construction
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Union City, NJ
JACOB LAWRENCE The Builders 1985 Commemorative Poster - National Urban League 75th Anniversary 1910-1985 Poster size - 35.25 x 23 inches, unframed, unsigned Image size - 23.75 x 19 in. The Builders is a specially commissioned lithographic art poster designed by Jacob Lawrence (born September 7, 1917, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.—died June 9, 2000, Seattle, Washington) and is the original first edition printing produced in 1985 for The National Urban League in commemoration of their 75th Anniversary. The Builders was printed in 4 color offset lithography on heavyweight white paper. An extra cobalt blue boost color was printed on the central figure as an enhancement to the composition. The Builders depicts a colorful, busy construction scene with men working on ladders, with tools in hand, carrying wood...
Category

1980s Contemporary Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Offset

"Windows"
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Lambertville, NJ
Jim's of Lambertville Fine Art Gallery is proud to present this work by Jacob Lawrence (1917 – 2000). Provenance: This painting is from the private collection of Gwen Lawrence, widow of Jacob Lawrence. Exhibitions: An attached photo (3rd photo) of the back of the piece shows its extensive exhibition history. Biography: Leading African-American narrative painter, Jacob Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1917. After his father abandoned his family in 1924, Lawrence spent several years in foster homes before reuniting with his mother in 1930 in Harlem, New York. In New York, he attended art classes organized at the Harlem Art Workshop with Charles Aston and the Harlem Community Art Center with Augusta Savage. There, he met fellow young painters, Aaron Douglas, and William Johnson...
Category

1970s Modern Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Gouache

Hiroshima
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in New York, NY
Bound volume with complete text and 8 color screenprints. One of 1500 numbered copies. Signed by John Hersey, Robert Penn Warren and Lawrence and numbered ...
Category

1980s Modern Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Color, Screen

Olympische Spiele Muenchen (The Runners) by Jacob Lawrence
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Long Island City, NY
Artist: Jacob Lawrence (1917 - 2000) Title: Olympische Spiele Muenchen (The Runners) Year: 1972 Medium: Lithograph Poster mounted on linen E...
Category

1970s Abstract Expressionist Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Lithograph

"The Capture" Blue, Red, and Green Abstract Figurative Print AP 12/30
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in Houston, TX
Blue, red, brown, and green abstract figurative print by artist Jacob Lawrence. This piece depicts a central woman figure wearing a red dress and holding a golden sword while on a white horse. She is in the company of other figures by some tall, green, bushes. Signed and editioned by the artist at the bottom. Framed and matted in a thin gold frame. Dimensions Without Frame: H 30 in. x W 20 in. Artist Biography: Jacob Lawrence was born September 7, 1917, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where his parents had migrated from the rural south. They divorced in 1924. His mother put him and his two younger siblings into foster care in Philadelphia. When he was 13, he and his siblings moved to New York City, where he reconnected with his mother in Harlem. Lawrence was introduced to art shortly after that when their mother enrolled him in after-school classes at an arts and crafts settlement house in Harlem, called Utopia Children's Center, in an effort to keep him busy. The young Lawrence often drew patterns with crayons. In the beginning, he copied the patterns of his mother's carpets. After dropping out of school at 16, Lawrence worked in a laundromat and a printing plant. He continued with art, attending classes at the Harlem Art...
Category

1970s Modern Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Archival Pigment

"The Capture, " Jacob Lawrence, Harlem Renaissance, Black Art, Haitian Series
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in New York, NY
Jacob Lawrence (1917 - 2000) The Capture of Marmelade (from The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture series), 1987 Color screenprint on Bainbridge Two Ply Rag paper Sheet 32 1/8 x 22 1/16 inches Sight 29 3/4 x 19 1/4 inches A/P 1/30, aside from the edition of 120 Signed, titled, dated, inscribed "A/P" and numbered 1/30 in pencil, lower margin. Literature: Nesbett L87-2. A social realist, Lawrence documented the African American experience in several series devoted to Toussaint L’Ouverture, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, life in Harlem, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He was one of the first nationally recognized African American artists. “If at times my productions do not express the conventionally beautiful, there is always an effort to express the universal beauty of man’s continuous struggle to lift his social position and to add dimension to his spiritual being.” — Jacob Lawrence quoted in Ellen Harkins Wheat, Jacob Lawrence: The Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman Series of 1938 – 40. The most widely acclaimed African American artist of this century, and one of only several whose works are included in standard survey books on American art, Jacob Lawrence has enjoyed a successful career for more than fifty years. Lawrence’s paintings portray the lives and struggles of African Americans, and have found wide audiences due to their abstract, colorful style and universality of subject matter. By the time he was thirty years old, Lawrence had been labeled as the ​“foremost Negro artist,” and since that time his career has been a series of extraordinary accomplishments. Moreover, Lawrence is one of the few painters of his generation who grew up in a black community, was taught primarily by black artists, and was influenced by black people. Lawrence was born on September 7, 1917,* in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was the eldest child of Jacob and Rosa Lee Lawrence. The senior Lawrence worked as a railroad cook and in 1919 moved his family to Easton, Pennsylvania, where he sought work as a coal miner. Lawrence’s parents separated when he was seven, and in 1924 his mother moved her children first to Philadelphia and then to Harlem when Jacob was twelve years old. He enrolled in Public School 89 located at 135th Street and Lenox Avenue, and at the Utopia Children’s Center, a settlement house that provided an after school program in arts and crafts for Harlem children. The center was operated at that time by painter Charles Alston who immediately recognized young Lawrence’s talents. Shortly after he began attending classes at Utopia Children’s Center, Lawrence developed an interest in drawing simple geometric patterns and making diorama type paintings from corrugated cardboard boxes. Following his graduation from P.S. 89, Lawrence enrolled in Commerce High School on West 65th Street and painted intermittently on his own. As the Depression became more acute, Lawrence’s mother lost her job and the family had to go on welfare. Lawrence dropped out of high school before his junior year to find odd jobs to help support his family. He enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal jobs program, and was sent to upstate New York. There he planted trees, drained swamps, and built dams. When Lawrence returned to Harlem he became associated with the Harlem Community Art Center directed by sculptor Augusta Savage, and began painting his earliest Harlem scenes. Lawrence enjoyed playing pool at the Harlem Y.M.C.A., where he met ​“Professor” Seifert, a black, self styled lecturer and historian who had collected a large library of African and African American literature. Seifert encouraged Lawrence to visit the Schomburg Library in Harlem to read everything he could about African and African American culture. He also invited Lawrence to use his personal library, and to visit the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition of African art in 1935. As the Depression continued, circumstances remained financially difficult for Lawrence and his family. Through the persistence of Augusta Savage, Lawrence was assigned to an easel project with the W.P.A., and still under the influence of Seifert, Lawrence became interested in the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the black revolutionary and founder of the Republic of Haiti. Lawrence felt that a single painting would not depict L’Ouverture’s numerous achievements, and decided to produce a series of paintings on the general’s life. Lawrence is known primarily for his series of panels on the lives of important African Americans in history and scenes of African American life. His series of paintings include: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1937, (forty one panels), The Life of Frederick Douglass, 1938, (forty panels), The Life of Harriet Tubman, 1939, (thirty one panels), The Migration of the Negro,1940 – 41, (sixty panels), The Life of John Brown, 1941, (twenty two panels), Harlem, 1942, (thirty panels), War, 1946 47, (fourteen panels), The South, 1947, (ten panels), Hospital, 1949 – 50, (eleven panels), Struggle: History of the American People, 1953 – 55, (thirty panels completed, sixty projected). Lawrence’s best known series is The Migration of the Negro, executed in 1940 and 1941. The panels portray the migration of over a million African Americans from the South to industrial cities in the North between 1910 and 1940. These panels, as well as others by Lawrence, are linked together by descriptive phrases, color, and design. In November 1941 Lawrence’s Migration series was exhibited at the prestigious Downtown Gallery in New York. This show received wide acclaim, and at the age of twenty four Lawrence became the first African American artist to be represented by a downtown ​“mainstream” gallery. During the same month Fortune magazine published a lengthy article about Lawrence, and illustrated twenty six of the series’ sixty panels. In 1943 the Downtown Gallery exhibited Lawrence’s Harlem series, which was lauded by some critics as being even more successful than the Migration panels. In 1937 Lawrence obtained a scholarship to the American Artists School in New York. At about the same time, he was also the recipient of a Rosenwald Grant for three consecutive years. In 1943 Lawrence joined the U.S. Coast Guard and was assigned to troop ships that sailed to Italy and India. After his discharge in 1945, Lawrence returned to painting the history of African American people. In the summer of 1947 Lawrence taught at the innovative Black Mountain College in North Carolina at the invitation of painter Josef Albers. During the late 1940s Lawrence was the most celebrated African American painter in America. Young, gifted, and personable, Lawrence presented the image of the black artist who had truly ​“arrived”. Lawrence was, however, somewhat overwhelmed by his own success, and deeply concerned that some of his equally talented black artist friends had not achieved a similar success. As a consequence, Lawrence became deeply depressed, and in July 1949 voluntarily entered Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York, to receive treatment. He completed the Hospital series while at Hillside. Following his discharge from the hospital in 1950, Lawrence resumed painting with renewed enthusiasm. In 1960 he was honored with a retrospective exhibition and monograph prepared by The American Federation of Arts. He also traveled to Africa twice during the 1960s and lived primarily in Nigeria. Lawrence taught for a number of years at the Art Students League in New York, and over the years has also served on the faculties of Brandeis University, the New School for Social Research, California State College at Hayward, the Pratt Institute, and the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Art. In 1974 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York held a major retrospective of Lawrence’s work that toured nationally, and in December 1983 Lawrence was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The most recent retrospective of Lawrence’s paintings was organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2020, and was accompanied by a major catalogue. Lawrence met his wife Gwendolyn Knight...
Category

1970s American Modern Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Paper, Screen

Makeup by Jacob Lawrence
By Jacob Lawrence
Located in New Orleans, LA
Jacob Lawrence 1917-2000 American Makeup Signed (lower right) Tempera on board Inspired by the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem, Jacob Lawrence’s mast...
Category

20th Century Post-Impressionist Jacob Lawrence Art

Materials

Tempera, Board

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Previously Available Items
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Jacob Lawrence art for sale on 1stDibs.

Find a wide variety of authentic Jacob Lawrence art available for sale on 1stDibs. You can also browse by medium to find art by Jacob Lawrence in lithograph, screen print, paint and more. Much of the original work by this artist or collective was created during the 20th century and is mostly associated with the modern style. Not every interior allows for large Jacob Lawrence art, so small editions measuring 9 inches across are available. Customers who are interested in this artist might also find the work of Warrington Colescott, Martin Barooshian, and Ed Baynard. Jacob Lawrence art prices can differ depending upon medium, time period and other attributes. On 1stDibs, the price for these items starts at $300 and tops out at $743,750, while the average work can sell for $4,500.

Artists Similar to Jacob Lawrence

Questions About Jacob Lawrence Art
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Dynamic cubism is the style that American artist Jacob Lawrence is known for. Lawrence coined the term himself to describe the repeated patterns and vivid colors that defined his works. To produce his paintings, he largely drew inspiration from Harlem, New York. Find a selection of Jacob Lawrence on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertFebruary 1, 2024
    Jacob Lawrence was known for being one of the first Black artists to receive national acclaim in the United States. His narrative paintings include pieces on Black historical figures, World War II and civil rights. His most famous work — The Migration Series — focuses on the Great Migration of Black Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North between 1910 and 1940. On 1stDibs, find a variety of Jacob Lawrence art.

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