There, during his participation in community art workshops, Lawrence quickly discovered his love of art through the encouragement of teachers such as painter Charles Alston. Throughout the 1930s, Lawrence’s art was inspired by the cultural visionaries of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1938, Lawrence had his first solo exhibition at the Harlem YMCA and started working for the WPA Federal Art Project. In 1940, he received a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation to create a 60-panel epic, The Migration of the Negro (now known as The Migration Series); when the series was exhibited at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery the following year, the then 23-year-old artist catapulted to national acclaim.
In the ensuing decades, Lawrence continued to create paintings drawn from the African American experience as well as historical and contemporary themes, such as war, religion, and civil rights. He taught with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1946 and later at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. He moved to Seattle in 1971, teaching at the University of Washington until 1983. During his later years, Lawrence worked in a variety of media, including large-scale murals, silkscreen prints, and book illustrations. Until his death in 2000, Lawrence honed a unique visual language of abstraction that remained steeped in the human condition. Continue reading from The Phillips Collection