Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, Black Mountain College, 1946. Photograph by Nancy Newhall.
Jacob Lawrence, “Windows,” 1977. Silkscreen, ed. 70/300. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence.
Jacob Lawrence (b. 1917 Atlantic City, NJ; d. 2000 Seattle, WA)
Jacob Lawrence was one of the first artists to be trained by the African American community of Harlem, receiving special attention from sculptor Augusta Savage, leader of the Harlem Community Art Center. He developed a style of “dynamic cubism” which abstracted the subject into planes of color and gave a sense of movement to the canvas. As a young man, Lawrence painted a 60-panel set titled Migration Series, which explored the lives and struggles of the thousands of African Americans who migrated from the rural South to Northern cities seeking a better life. The series was exhibited in 1944 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, gaining national recognition for the painter.
In 1946, Josef Albers invited Lawrence to teach at the Summer Art Institute at Black Mountain College. It was his first teaching position, and in later years he spoke about the impact of Josef Albers and the Bauhaus teaching legacy on his own ideas about teaching. After that summer, Lawrence returned to New York where he continued to paint, receiving many prestigious fellowships and showing in major galleries in the city. In 1971 he accepted a teaching position at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he and his wife Gwendolyn, also a painter, remained until his death in 2000.
For more on Jacob Lawrence, visit the digital portal for “Between Form and Content: Perspectives on Jacob Lawrence and Black Mountain College,” the first exhibition to focus on Lawrence’s experiences during the summer of 1946. Curated by Julie Levin Caro and Jeff Arnal.