Jacob Lawrence

(American, born 1917, died 2000)

Celebrated artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) created expressive, graphic artworks with a distinct style and color palette. His art explores the human condition, American history, and themes of social justice, especially as connects to the African American experience. 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. During World War II (1939-45), he was drafted into the United States Coast Guard. He served in a segregated regiment and as Coast Guard Artist. 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. He became an influential teacher across the country, including at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He was Professor Emeritus (1970-1985) in the School of Art at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Lawrence's 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.