Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1917, Jacob Lawrence emerged as one of America's leading figurative artists and the first to document the history of African Americans through widely-viewed and influential artworks.
Lawrence and his family moved to Harlem in 1924, where he experienced the vibrancy of black intellectual, cultural, and artistic life in what was seen as the Harlem Renaissance. He became well known at the young age of 21 for his "Toussant L'Ouverture Series" (1937), a 41-painting collection that depicts the successful Haitian slave rebellion. At the age of 24, he became the first African American whose work was included in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Lawrence considered himself both an artist and educator and used his art to tell stories about black history -- stories that were overlooked in the typical "American History" taught in schools. For example, Lawrence produced a 40-panel series on "The Life of Harriet Tubman" (1940), who in the 1800s helped hundreds of slaves find passage to freedom in the North through the Underground Railroad. His 60-painting "Migration Series" (1941) traces the mass movement of African Americans from the South to the North following World War I. These series use both images and detailed titles to create a narrative history of the event.
On March 17, 1970, Lawrence became the first artist to receive the Spingarn Medal for "eminence among American painters."
In 1970, Lawrence and his wife, painter Gwendolyn Knight, moved to Seattle when Lawrence accepted an appointment as Professor in the School of Art at the University of Washington. He retired in 1980 and continued to serve as Emeritus Professor until his death in 2000 at the age of 83.
The sixth floor of the Allen Center exhibits a spectacular two-piece Jacob Lawrence print -- New York in Transit. Lawrence based this 1998 screen print on his design for the 36-foot-long mosaic mural of that name in the Times Square and 42nd Street Subway Station in New York City. Due to the strong 6th floor lighting that could harm the bright colors in the print, we obtained permission to create a 2x-scale photo reproduction, which is displayed outside of the Gates Commons. The original print is on loan to the Henry Art Gallery.
Lawrence's 1985 lithograph, Man on a Scaffold, welcomes visits to the CSE reception area. The Chair's conference room (CSE 110) houses a three-piece Lawrence etching, The Builder's Suite.
From http://www.cs.washington.edu/building/art/JacobLawrence/. Photo (top left) from Life.