Works in the Collection
Jacob Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1917. Lawrence lived in settlement houses and foster homes in Philadelphia until the age of 13 when he moved to New York to be with his mother. Lawrence first delved into the art world at a young age by means of after-school community workshops. At the age of sixteen, Lawrence dropped out of school, but he continued to attend workshops at the Utopia House and the Harlem Art Workshop. His time at the workshops exposed him to famous artists such as Charles Alston and Augusta Savage and further introduced him to more outstanding individuals of the Harlem Renaissance. Lawrence was awarded a scholarship to attend the American Artist’s School.
Lawrence had his first exhibition at the Harlem YMCA. Soon after in 1940, he earned a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation. With the grant, his job was to produce a series of images depicting the migration of African-Americans from the South to the North which he entitled Migration Series. He received help on this project from fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight, whom he later married in 1941. The Migration Series was shown at the avant-garde Downtown Gallery established by famed New York City art dealer, Edith Halpert. His exhibition at the Downtown Gallery gave him national notoriety for his work and for being the first artist of color represented by a leading New York gallery. Lawrence took on the role of a teacher, teaching at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Main, and the New School for Social Research in New York. In 1971, he became a professor of painting at the University of Washington in Seattle. Lawrence died in 2000 in Seattle, Washington.