Today’s Studio Sunday feature is Jacob Lawrence, a painter originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, who was known for his colorful, abstracted depictions of African American life and culture in the 20th century. Lawrence’s style was often compared to cubism – the artist himself even referred to it as “dynamic cubism” – but was most heavily influenced by art styles coming out of Harlem, NY.
Lawrence looks hard at work in this photo, adding detail to a painting on paper, or perhaps on unstretched canvas. I like the drawing table type of setup that the artist is using, with that big lamp positioned directly over the painting so that everything is illuminated.
The studio space itself appears to be in an attic – quite possibly a home studio, as this photo was taken in the 1980’s, later in Lawrence’s career. The slanted wall opposite the artist, and the wood details that look like, perhaps, a small doorway into a storage crawlspace lend the whole studio a cramped but cozy feel. This reminds me of attic studio spaces like Jennifer Beinhacker’s. Lawrence almost looks as though he’s at work in a cabin.
It’s a little difficult to tell, but it looks as though the artist is kneeling on the floor while working on this painting. That seems like a very interesting choice for working – usually you see artists either sitting at a desk, poring over papers, or standing, working on a tall sculpture or painting. Lawrence’s posture lends to the sense that this space is quite cozy, with every corner stuffed with artwork and sketches.
Lawrence passed away at the age of 82 in 2000. He gained wide recognition early in his career with a massive, 60-panel series of paintings known as the “Migration Series.” The paintings in this series are currently split between museums in New York and Washington, DC – many of the artist’s other works are in the private collections of notable institutions.