Collections: American Art: Funeral Sermon

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Funeral Sermon

One of the first nationally recognized African American artists, Jacob Lawrence came to maturity in Harlem in the 1930s—a dynamic milieu marked by the great cultural achievements of the Harlem Renaissance, yet also by racism and the Great Depression. Throughout his long career, Lawrence devoted himself to painting genre scenes of working-class black life and epic series about African American history. Displaying the abstracted design elements and vibrant colors that characterize Lawrence’s style, Funeral Sermon commemorates the death of his sister from tuberculosis in 1944. An expression of personal grief, this work also addresses larger social issues, including the importance of spirituality in the black community—notice how Lawrence unifies the congregation in the foreground through the repetition of geometric forms—and the overcrowded housing and inadequate health-care facilities in Harlem that led to disease and untimely death.

  • Artist: Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917-2000
  • Medium: Watercolor and graphite with some varnish on heavy, textured wove paper
  • Dates: 1946
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 29 3/8 x 21 1/8 in. (74.6 x 53.7 cm)  (show scale)
  • Signature: Signed lower right: "Jacob Lawrence 1946 ©"
  • Collections:American Art
  • Museum Location: This item is not on view
  • Accession Number: 48.24
  • Credit Line: Anonymous gift
  • Rights Statement: © artist or artist's estate
  • Caption: Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000). Funeral Sermon, 1946. Watercolor and graphite with some varnish on heavy, textured wove paper, Sheet: 29 3/8 x 21 1/8 in. (74.6 x 53.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Anonymous gift, 48.24. © artist or artist's estate
  • Image: overall, 48.24_bw_IMLS.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
  • Record Completeness: Best (85%)
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