Jacob Lawrence’s Great Migration Series is monumental for its time and now. I teach my students that the Great Migration Series is like a visual historical document. These paintings give you a sense of life for black people who decided to leave the southern states for work in larger cities in the north.
Leaving the south wasn’t always about a gain, for many southerners it was about life or death.
Lawrence didn’t visually describe this mass migration as some happy escape for more freedom and opportunity. There is a sense of desperation in some paintings as well as a sense of urgency. He painted what was happening from his perspective.
If you look at artworks by Aaron Douglas there is a completely different feel for life in the cities compared to rural life in the south as described by Jacob Lawrence. These two artists are of different ages but they are describing some of the same themes. The black experience of their time.
Lawrence described his art style as dynamic cubism, a style similar to Pablo Picasso’s and the cubist movement.
Lawrence’s artwork is figurative and many of his later works really explore the process of creating a figurative art.
For students who would like to learn more about Jacob Lawrence’s artwork check out another site here.
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