Based on diligent research and inspired by Harlem Renaissance artists Augusta Savage and Charles Alston, Jacob Lawrence illustrated African American history through colorful narrative paintings. His subjects included series on prominent figures in the struggle for black liberation, such as Harriet Tubman; his “The Great Migration” (1940-41) chronicled the Depression-era flight of African Americans from the impoverished rural south to northern cities.


Comprising 60 tempera works executed simultaneously with unifying color schemes and visual motifs, it depicted heart-wrenching everyday scenes. New York Times critic Holland Cotter once described Lawrence’s oeuvre as having a “sinewy moral texture…that is in the business of neither easy uplift nor single-minded protest.”
More about Jacob Lawrence adopted his characteristic simple forms and abstract elements from African art, linking that aesthetic tradition to present-day black identity.

American, 1917–2000, Atlantic City, New Jersey

  • Jacob Lawrence, Builders #3, 1974
    Jacob Lawrence
    Builders #3, 1974
    30 x 22 in.
    76.2 x 55.9 cm
  • Jacob Lawrence, Builders #1, 1972
    Jacob Lawrence
    Builders #1, 1972
    22 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.
    57.1 x 44.5 cm
    5/10 AP
  • Jacob Lawrence, The Carpenter, 1957
    Jacob Lawrence
    The Carpenter, 1957
    Pen and ink on paper
    15 3/4 x 20 3/4 in.
    40.0 x 52.7 cm
  • Jacob Lawrence, Gypsies, 1948
    Jacob Lawrence
    Gypsies, 1948
    Egg tempera on board
    20 x 24 in.
    50.8 x 61.0 cm
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