Whitney Meet Jacob Lawrence Jacob Lawrence's Art Learning Resources Tell Your Own Story Student Art and Stories
Home Help
Early Childhood
Teen Years
His Harlem Community
Visions of Harlem
Picturing Narratives
New Artistic Directions
New Themes
His Life's Work

indicates a link to another site
  Teen Years
While in high school, Lawrence attended art classes taught by  Charles Alston at the Harlem Art Workshop in the New York Public Library's 135th Street branch (later the  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). This library housed  Arthur Schomburg's distinguished collection of literature and artifacts on African and African-American culture. It also became a forum for exhibitions, social, cultural, and political events.

  Despite financial hardship, Lawrence's mother made great efforts to have a beautiful home. Lawrence's eye became attuned to visual relationships and he developed his predilection for certain shapes.
Our homes were very decorative, full of pattern, like inexpensive throw rugs, all around the house. It must have had some influence, all this color and everything. Because we were so poor the people used this as a means of brightening their life. I used to do bright patterns after these throw rugs; I got ideas from them, the arabesques, the movement and so on.
Jacob Lawrence1
As a teenager, Lawrence made frequent visits to the  Metropolitan Museum of Art. He developed an appreciation for the works of old masters such as  Giotto,  Breughel, and  Goya, and modern masters such as  van Gogh and  Matisse. He became interested in African art and abstract art, and was aware of the narrative serial tradition in Egyptian and medieval wall paintings, as well as the contemporary mural cycles of Mexican muralists  Diego Rivera and  Josť Clemente Orozco.
Jacob Lawrence (second from left) making block prints under the direction of Sarah West at the WPA Federal Art Project Workshop, Harlem, 1933-34. Photograph by Kenneth F. Space. National Archives, Harmon Foundation, College Park, Maryland

1. Leslie King-Hammond, "Inside-Outside, Uptown-Downtown, Jacob Lawrence and the Aesthetic Ethos of the Harlem Working-Class Community," in Peter T. Nesbett and Michelle Dubois, eds., Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), p. 73.

©2002 Whitney Museum of American Art