Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000) was an African-American painter known for his portrayal of African-American life.
From 1915 onward, six million black Southerners quit that the region for points north in an epic tide of souls fleeing oppression and seeking opportunity. This spring, the Museum of Modern Art will honor the Great Migration’s centennial by reuniting Jacob Lawrence’s famous paintings of this mass movement, a suite of 60 panels to be shown at MoMA for the first time since 1995.
The Exhibition is called One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North.
Lawrence was 23 years old when he gained national recognition with his 60 panels Migration Series. Lawrence called them, “The Migration of the Negro,” giving each panel a short caption. The modernist series with repeated images of trains, naked trees, flames, labor agents and fleeing silhouetted figures was intended to be exhibited together, but the series was broken up.
Lawrence spent months distilling the subject into captions and preliminary drawings and preparing 60 boards with the help of his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight. He created the paintings in tempera, a water-base paint that dries rapidly and painted them on hardboard. To keep the colors consistent, Lawrence applied one hue at a time to every painting where it was to appear, requiring him to plan all 60 paintings in detail at once.
The series was the subject of a solo show at the Downtown Gallery in Manhattan in 1941, making Lawrence the first black artist represented by a New York gallery. Interest in the series was intense. Ultimately, The Phillips Collection and New York’s Museum of Modern Art agreed to divide it, with the Phillips buying the odd-numbered paintings.
The exhibit runs from April 3, 2015 – September 7, 2015. Here is the museum link. After the MoMA exhibit ends in September and the paintings are returned to the Phillips Collection in D.C., go see their panels. The small, intimate museum is the perfect venue for the panels. On many days, you will be the only one viewing them. Are you a fan?