Jacob Lawrence

(American, born 1917, died 2000)

Celebrated artist Jacob Lawrence created distinctive artworks in an expressive and abstracted style. His art explores the human condition, the African American experience, American history, and themes of social justice. Lawrence and his wife, artist Gwen Knight, had a life-long partnership of creative and critical guidance and support. About his own work, Lawrence said "When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it."

Lawrence began his art career during the Harlem Renaissance, in 1930s New York City. In 1941, he was the first African American artist to be represented in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. During WWII, he was drafted into the United States Coast Guard and served in a segregated regiment and as Coast Guard Artist. He became an influential teacher across the country, including at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He was Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he taught from 1970-1985.

Major retrospectives of Lawrence's work were held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1974 and at Seattle Art Museum in 2003. His artworks are in the permanent collections of over 200 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and the White House Art Collection. He was honored with a Washington State Governor's Arts and Heritage Award in 1984. His artworks and legacy continue to inspire discussions about art, society, and social justice.

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