Jacob Lawrence. The migrants arrived in great numbers. 1940-41
Director, Glenn Lowry: The artist, Jacob Lawrence, interviewed in 1998, in San Francisco.
Artist, Jacob Lawrence I worked very fast. From the concept and the drawings to the completion of the works, oh that may have taken six to eight months, something like that. I had a very simple palette. I went through all the panels painting yellows, greens, blues, so they’re all the same. I didn’t mix color. I left it pure, as it was, cause I wanted the series to be a unit. I consider it one work, not 60 works.
Glenn Lowry: Chief Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Ann Temkin.
Curator, Ann Temkin: It is a series that he made at the beginning of the 1940s when he was living in Harlem and very aware of the great difference that the immigration of blacks from the south to the cities of the north in the 19-teens and ‘20s had made. He himself was the son of parents who had come up from the south, so it had very personal meaning to him.
It’s interesting to imagine him working on all of the panels simultaneously, filling in all the red that would be everywhere, then all the green that would be everywhere, then the brown. How he kept in his head what was going to work in each composition is really mind-boggling.
There’s a celebration of color, of a kind of sound, as much as sight, in the exuberance of these paintings. The power of the story, of having an oral tradition passed down from generation to generation, the story of a people, this was something that would have been extremely vital to his own lived life, and I think his ability to merge that so beautifully with the language of modern art is something that makes him so great.