American painter, one of the first black Americans to win recognition in the white art world. He was born in Atlantic City and studied at the Harlem Art Workshop and other schools in New York in the 1930s. His work was concerned with black culture, both in the past and the present. In 1936, for example, he began a series on the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the former slave who founded the republic of Haiti, and in 1940–41 he did a series of 60 paintings on ‘The Migration of the Negro’ (examples are in MoMA, New York), considered to be his greatest achievement. These paintings addressed the theme of the ‘Black Exodus’ from South to North after the First World War. In 1995 he told an interviewer that he would like the spectator to ‘experience the beauty of life, the struggle, how people can overcome things that could be very frustrating or very demeaning’. Contemporary subjects included life in Harlem and desegregation in the South during the 1960s. His later work tended to be more decorative and less concerned with social comment, but all his work is characterized by the stylization of his figures into strong, angular, flattened forms and brilliant colour. Lawrence taught at various colleges, including the University of Washington in Seattle, where he settled in 1972.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/remember/jan-june00/lawrence_6-13.html Online News Hour, Remembering Jacob Lawrence (13 June 2000)