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Dallas Museum of Art Celebrates the Work of Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence, "Toussaint et Ennery", 1989. Silk screen on bainbridge two-ply rag paper. The Collection of Curtis E. Ransom.

DALLAS, TX.- For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Dallas Museum of Art presents the work of one of America's leading modern figurative painters, Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917–June 9, 2000), in a new exhibition, "Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture". Opening on December 6 in the DMA’s Focus Gallery II, the exhibition will showcase a series of fifteen dramatic and colorful silkscreen prints based on a series of forty-one paintings entitled "The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture", Lawrence’s first multi-part narrative series, which was completed in 1938. Rarely exhibited together, the prints, on loan from the Curtis E. Ransom Collection of African American Art, will be presented alongside two important works from the Dallas Museum of Art collections–Lawrence’s painting The Visitors and a portrait of the artist by legendary photographer Arnold Newman.

“In a season of celebration when we are commemorating the Dallas Museum of Art’s 25th anniversary in the Dallas Arts District, we are so pleased to be able to present the brilliant work of artist Jacob Lawrence for a second time in nearly as many years,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director at the Dallas Museum of Art. “Lawrence is one of the great artists of our era and we thank Curtis Ransom, one of Dallas’s most dedicated collectors of African American art, for offering us the opportunity to exhibit these magnificent works at the Museum.”

In 1986, the DMA hosted Jacob Lawrence, American Painter, the artist’s first major museum exhibition since 1974. The Museum loaned its painting "The Visitors" to this critically acclaimed project organized by the Seattle Art Museum that toured, in addition to Dallas, to the Oakland Museum, California; The High Museum of Art in Atlanta; The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.; and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

"Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture", on view through May 23, 2010, celebrates the artistry of Jacob Lawrence and the life of and history surrounding Toussaint L’Ouverture, a leader in the Haitian revolution. L’Ouverture was born a slave and became a commander in chief of the Haitian revolutionary army in 1800. In 1804, Haiti became the first black Western republic. L’Ouverture was instrumental in drafting independent Haiti’s first democratic constitution.

“Through these powerful works of L’Ouverture and the Haitian revolution, Lawrence presents his vision of humanity’s struggle toward unity and equality,” said Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Curator, The Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. “As one of the 20th century’s most important artists, Lawrence brilliantly chronicled our own country’s social and political life since the 1930s.”

“Lawrence’s works have underlying constants that have defined his style since the beginning,” said Charles Wylie, The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. “A visual sensibility rooted in cubism, a compositional format based on serial narratives, and subject matter taken from African American history and contemporary life—all are components within Lawrence’s art that make his style both complex and direct. His work is a truly inventive response and synthesis of the major political, economic and social forces that shaped the modern era.”

Jacob Lawrence was raised in Harlem during the Depression. He was enrolled in the Harlem Art Workshop, which was sponsored by the Works Project Administration, where he became affiliated with a loose confederation of black artists working in New York during the 1930s led by Charles Alston and Augusta Savage.

Lawrence’s painting soon departed from the Harlem street scenes that had characterized his first works for themes derived from black history. Those early narrative sequences were devoted either to the lives of important black figures, such as Toussaint L’Ouverture and American abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, or documented pivotal American events, like the mass movement of southern blacks to the industrialized North as seen in his landmark series The Migration of the American Negro.

Jacob Lawrence became the first African American artist to have his work shown at a major New York gallery when, in 1941, Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery exhibited the Migration series. By the close of World War II, his work had won much critical praise, and in 1944 The Museum of Modern Art in New York organized a one-person exhibition of selections from Lawrence’s early narrative series. In the following decades, Lawrence continued to cement his stature and is now generally regarded as one of the most important American artists of the 20th-century,

Dallas Museum of Art | Jacob Lawrence | American Painter |

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