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Jacob Lawrence

War Series: The Letter


In 1946, Jacob Lawrence began work on the War Series. The series presents a narrative that describes the sense of regimentation, community, and displacement that the artist experienced during his service in the United States Coast Guard. The fourteen panels of the War Series testify to Lawrence’s belief that one cannot “tell a story in a single painting.” 1

As a class, look at The Letter and think about the story Lawrence might be trying to tell. What might be happening here? Who might this person be? The white square on the table is the letter that Lawrence refers to in the title of this work, but it is devoid of any words. Have your students write the letter in the painting. What does it say? What kind of news does it bring?

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