Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle features the series of paintings Struggle . . . From the History of the American People (1954–56) by the iconic American modernist. The exhibition reunites the multi-paneled work for the first time in more than half a century.
One of the greatest narrative artists of the twentieth century, Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) painted his Struggle series to show how women and people of color helped shape the founding of our nation. Originally conceived as a series of sixty paintings, spanning subjects from the American Revolution to World War I, Struggle was intended to depict, in the artist’s words, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.” Lawrence planned to publish his ambitious project in book form. In the end, he completed thirty panels representing historical moments from 1775 through 1817—from Patrick Henry to Westward Expansion. The 12- x 16-inch panels that comprise Struggle feature the words and actions of not only early American politicians but also of enslaved people, women, and Native Americans to address the diverse but mutually linked fortunes of all American constituencies engaged in the struggle. Taken as a whole, this remarkable series of paintings interprets and expresses the democratic debates that defined early America and still resonate today.
This multi-authored volume, featuring contributions by contemporary art historians, cultural historians, and artists, examines Lawrence's epic American history series in diverse contexts that resonate profoundly today.