When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it.
Artist Jacob Lawrence developed a distinctive style influenced by Pablo Picasso’s Synthetic Cubism, which largely shaped his style, known as Expressive Cubism after 1940. Having spent his formative years in Harlem, Lawrence provided social commentary on race in the United States through depictions of the lived experiences of African Americans and African American history.
In 1970, Lawrence was at the peak of his career. The NAACP presented him with its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal; Lawrence was the first artist to receive the honor. That same year, the UW invited him to join the faculty as a Visiting Professor.
He and his wife, the artist Gwendolyn Knight, moved west to Seattle and a next chapter in a brilliant career. The gray skies and waters of the Pacific Northwest influenced a shift from prismatic to tonal color in Lawrence’s style, and he soon became engaged in a number of local collaborations.
He became tenured faculty in the School of Art in 1971 and taught until 1985, and the School’s gallery was named after him in 1994.
Painted in UW's Meany Hall