My 5 Favorite Paintings of 2009, Part 2

Jacob Lawrence, the Migration Series.
"The factory owners had to find new workers to replace those who were marching off to war."
At the Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

I've always loved the abstraction and color of Jacob Lawrence's art but didn't know about the powerful migration series until I ran into the odd numbered panels at the Phillips Collection. The series consists of 60 panels painted in 1941. The odd numbers are displayed at the Phillips, the even numbers are owned by the MOMA. The images and story are powerful and I was inspired by his process of conception and planning. He planned the paintings as a series in advance to tell the story, his wife prepared the surfaces and Lawrence painted them in a series, working on several at once. He tells the entire story of the great migration: life in the south, lynchings, the difficulty of moving, the circumstances people found in the north.

Here's the website for the series at the Phillips:

Here's a website (fantastic) at Columbia University:

This is a description from a 1941 Fortune Magazine on the Phillips website:
"The t]heme of the story told by Lawrence’s pictures is the great south-to-north migration of Negroes that commenced during the first world war and has continued in lesser degree ever since. In one of the biggest population shifts in U.S. history over a million Negroes quit the crumbling, semifeudal cotton economy of their forefathers and trekked to the industrial cities of the North. Behind them were poverty and the flaring prejudices that grew with poverty. An average of fifty-six Negroes were being lynched every year. Then the war-burdened factories of the North sent out a call for cheap labor. "

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