AUGUSTA, GA.- The Morris Museum of Art opens the exhibit Jacob Lawrence: The Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman Series of 193840 through February 18, 2007. Jacob Lawrence first achieved widespread recognition for his art in the early 1940s and has been regarded as one of America's most important painters ever since. Between 1938 and 1940, he painted the Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman series, which remain some of his strongest work. These two narrative sequences present the dramatic lives of two American slaves who escaped to freedom in the North and became major figures in the fight against slavery.
Lawrence grew up in Harlem during the Great Depression. As a young painter, he was swept up in the social and cultural milieu of that era. Initially, he drew on community scenes and black history for his subjects almost exclusively, portraying the lives and hopes of African Americans, and the narrative series became his artistic vehicle for celebrating significant themes and historical figures.
The Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman series are among Jacob Lawrence's greatest achievements as a painter. At times powerfully exquisite, at other times raw, even awkward, their rough magic and expressive strength speak to us through time of two of the most important episodes of black American history.
Ellen Harkins Wheat, author of the catalog Jacob Lawrence: The Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman Series of 1938-40, describes the artist's work in this way. "At times powerfully exquisite, at other times raw, even awkward, their rough magic and expressive strength speak to us through time of the often-neglected episodes of black American history and the black experience." In Lawrence's own words: "If at times my productions do not express the conventionally beautiful, there is always an effort to express the universal beauty of man's continuous struggle to lift his social position and to add dimension to his spiritual being."