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Brownstones, 1958. Egg tempera on hardboard, 31 1/2 x 37 1/4 in. (80 x 94.9 cm). Collection of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries; gift of Chauncey and Catherine Waddell
© Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
Artwork © Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, courtesy of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation

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During the 1920s and 1930s, as a result of the combined forces of the  Great Migration, the  Depression, the  Jazz Age, and the  Harlem Renaissance, Harlem blossomed into a community with a srtong and unique identity. An enclave for African-American literary and visual art, this new cultural arena enjoyed a sense of optimism in spite of economic difficulties. Like many writers and artists of his time, Jacob Lawrence was inspired by the dynamic vitality of the Harlem community.

In this image, Lawrence depicted a city street teeming with activity. Lawrence used repetition and patterns to create the rhythm of this city scene. Unlike earlier works, in which people and places are portrayed in flat color, in this painting, Lawrence created depth through the use of shadow.

A young boy walking a dog directs the viewer's attention to the center of the image, where a couple pushes their baby carriage. Other couples and paired figures appear throughout the image. In the center of the painting, two young girls are poised in mid-air as they jump rope. Figures in the background relax and engage in conversation on their stoops. Lawrence also offered multiple views into the brownstone's open windows.
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What makes a neighborhood?
How would you describe your neighborhood?
How is your neighborhood similar or different to this one?

• Observe and make sketches of a favorite place in your neighborhood at a particular time of day. Include people, shadows, repeated shapes, and patterns in your sketches.

©2002 Whitney Museum of American Art