October 5, 2017

Jacob Lawrence
Lines of Influence

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

Jacob Lawrence, The Card Game, 1953. Tempera on board, 19 x 23.5 inches. Gift of Dr. Walter O. and Mrs. Linda J. Evans. SCAD Museum of Art Permanent Collection. © 2017 Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society, New York.

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) presents Jacob Lawrence: Lines of Influence, a group exhibition to celebrate the centennial of the birth of Jacob Lawrence, acclaimed painter, storyteller, educator and chronicler of the American experience, on view through February 4, 2018, at the SCAD Museum of Art. Jacob Lawrence: Lines of Influence features a diverse selection of historical and contemporary artists across three galleries of the museum. This exhibition is made possible thanks to the support of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) was mentored by Charles Alston and heavily influenced by the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance. After receiving a scholarship to the American Artists School in 1937, he soon distinguished himself as an exceptional voice in American painting. From 1941 until 1953, Lawrence exhibited regularly at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery, New York, and throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, he was a regular participant in annual exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Today, Lawrence’s work is represented in almost 200 museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Studio Museum, New York; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lawrence was the first African American artist to be represented by a major commercial gallery. During his prolific career, Lawrence was presented with numerous awards and accolades. He earned the National Medal of Arts and received 18 honorary doctorates from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; New York University, New York; and Howard University, Washington, D.C., among others. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and served as a commissioner for the National Council on the Arts.

Jacob Lawrence: Lines of Influence is divided into two distinct, yet complementary parts. The first section, Relations, traces some of the engagements that shaped Lawrence’s personal and professional life. Lawrence’s work is presented in dialogue with that of contemporaries, mentors and historically significant artists including Josef Albers, Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Francisco José de Goya, José Clemente Orozco, Marsden Hartley, George Grosz, Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, Horace Pippin, and Augusta Savage among others.

Legacy explores Lawrence’s influence on artists living and working today, including commissioned works by Derrick Adams, Aaron Fowler, Meleko Mokgosi, Barbara Earl Thomas and Hank Willis Thomas. Works by Nina Chanel Abney, Sanford Biggers, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold and Jack Whitten are also featured.

The exhibition’s curatorial approach creates a contextually rich and widespread ground for the reading of Lawrence’s work. During his lifetime, Lawrence occupied an interstitial position in the art world. Despite significant early exhibitions at renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and features in national press outlets, Lawrence was considered both an insider and outsider, caught in a racially divided environment and edged to the margins of American modernism. This exhibition attempts to unravel such categorizations and the homage is approached as a matrix of entanglements, connections and relations, of intersecting lineages, influences and approaches, stretching from the early Italian Renaissance to the fractured considerations and concerns of artists working today.

Jacob Lawrence: Lines of Influence will be accompanied by a reception Thursday, October 19, a symposium October 19 and 20, and an exhibition catalog. The exhibition is organized by Storm Janse van Rensburg, head curator of SCAD exhibitions, with assistance from Amanda York, SCAD assistant curator.

About SCAD: the university for creative careers
The Savannah College of Art and Design is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution conferring bachelor’s and master’s degrees at distinctive locations and online to prepare talented students for professional careers. SCAD offers degrees in more than 40 majors. Visit

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