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American Paintings - before 1950

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The Eviction

20th century
71.1 cm x 97.5 cm (28 in. x 38 3/8 in.)

Jacob Lawrence (Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1917 - 2000, Seattle, Washington) Primary

Object Type: drawing
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Gouache and collage on cardboard
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Michener Acquisitions Fund, 1969
               Accession Number:                P1969.12.2             
Object Description: A master storyteller and chronicler of history, Jacob Lawrence was one of the leading figurative painters of the twentieth century. He was also the preeminent African American artist of his generation, creating work characterized by strong, simplified forms, a distinctive palette of bold hues, and dynamic compositions that heighten the drama or tension of his tales. A childhood spent largely in Harlem during the years of the Great Depression provided him with subject matter that he returned to throughout his long career. Inspired by the vibrant artistic and intellectual energy that had fueled the Harlem Renaissance, Lawrence studied visual art at an early age, creating The Eviction when he was just seventeen years old. It shows a typical Harlem occurrence—a black family thrown out of their home by a white landlord—a scene that, in a larger sense, reflects the overcrowding, poverty, and frequent displacements that the Great Depression caused throughout America’s urban communities. But few painters were tracing the specific narratives of African American experience, and Lawrence vowed at a young age to remedy that situation. Even in such an early work, he forcefully communicated the immediacy of his story, simplified to its essences, with clear and unwavering vision.

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