John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Art on Sunday: They were very poor.

Jacob Lawrence (1917 – 2000)
They were very poor. 1940-41
Tempera on gesso on composition board
Lawrence, They were very poor
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

In 1940 and 1941, Jacob Lawrence created a series of 60 paintings about the migration of Southern blacks to the north. (Interestingly, he worked on all sixty of them simultaneously, to ensure that the colors he used for the first painting were identical to those used for the last.) Half of the paintings -- the even numbered ones -- were acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, while the odd numbered ones went to the Phillips Collections in Washington, D.C. Rather than using individual titles, Lawrence wrote descriptive captions to each work. When I saw this painting Thursday at the Phillips Collection, where all sixty are currently on display, I was particularly impressed by this painting. The starkness of the image is made even more powerful by the blunt simplicity of the caption.

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