November 14, 1960: On Tuesday, November 22, the first showing of the retrospective exhibition of the paintings of Brooklyn resident, Jacob Lawrence, opens at the Brooklyn Museum. The 58 works, created by Mr. Lawrence over a period of 22 years, will tour museums and art centers across the nation following the Brooklyn showing.
Organized by the American Federation of Arts under a grant from the Ford Foundation, the retrospective exhibition is a part of the Foundation’s Program in the Humanities and the Arts devoted to increasing opportunities for the public throughout the United States to view the work of established artists.
The Lawrence Exhibition was selected by the eminent art critic, Aline B. Saarinen, who said, "Jacob Lawrence represents a phenomenon almost unique in our time: he is a narrative painter...but he is not an illustrator. For Lawrence, the springboard is always a visual image which has been impelled by an emotional response. His research on historical themes is painstaking and it results in orderly outlines of facts.”
Mr. Lawrence often painted not one but a series on a theme. Examples from his “Migration” series, 1940-41, the “Harlem” series, 1943, the “John Brown” series, 1946, and “Struggle: from History of the American People,” 1955-56 are some of the works on view.
Words and notes of people who lived the historical events describe the pictures in the “American People” series. The painting “Prophesy” was inspired by Patrick Henry who, in 1775 said, “...is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” In 1817 an English immigrant inspired Lawrence’s “Wagons West,” with the observation, “Old America seems to be breaking up and moving westward.” Other persons whose statements on American struggles influenced the series include Tecumseh, Thomas Jefferson & Henry Clay.
Pictures in the “Migration” series are described by Lawrence himself, and the entire “Harlem” series is summed up by him in one evocative sentence, “This is Harlem.”
Mr. Lawrence was brought up in New York’s Harlem. In 1941, when he was 24 years old he had his first major one-man show at the Downtown Gallery which brought rave reviews and the unusual distinction of the purchase of half the works by the Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Memorial Gallery.
Lawrence’s outstanding record of honors and awards includes a Sixth Purchase Prize ($600) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1941, Rosenwald Foundation Fellowships, Guggenheim Fellowships and the Chapelbrook Fellowship. He has received commissions to create paintings for such diverse publications as Fortune; One-Way Ticket, a book of poetry by Langston Hughes; Seventeen magazine and for advertisements of the Container Corporation of America. Over the years his profession has brought him to various teaching positions, from Black Mountain College in South Carolina to his present position at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.
This outstanding Exhibition by the Brooklyn artist will be seen from November 22 until January 2, 1961. There will be an invitational preview of the Exhibition for members of the Museum and their guests on Monday, November 21 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1953 - 1970. 1960, 070-072
November 22, 1960: The paintings of a Brooklyn artist will be discussed by a Brooklyn professor at the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday, November 27 at 3:45 p.m., when Dr. Milton Brown, Professor of Art at Brooklyn College will present the illustrated lecture, JACOB LAWRENCE AND SOCIAL REALISM IN PAINTING.
The public is invited to attend this admission-free event which is being given in conjunction with the Museum’s current Retrospective Exhibition of 58 paintings by Jacob Lawrence.
This program is the fifth in the fall series of Sunday lectures given at the Brooklyn Museum, following the popular Sunday concerts.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1953 - 1970. 1960, 053.