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Jacob Lawrence, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Connections to the DMA Collection

February 11, 2010

Last Saturday, Logan Acton and I led a teacher workshop focused on making connections between the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture and other works of art in the DMA’s collection.  We began by looking closely at the fifteen prints in the exhibition–each teacher focused her attention on one screenprint.  It was fascinating to hear the teachers’ observations about the prints.  I tend to emphasize context and the “big picture,” and the teachers focused my attention on aspects like line, shape, and color.  As one of the teachers put it–“We see history through all of the images.  We see the art elements when we look at just one print.” 

The prints in this exhibition were created between 1986 and 1997 and are based on a series of 41 paintings made in 1938.  We compared and contrasted images of the original paintings with two of the prints in the exhibition.  Lawrence made significant changes in these prints, such as including a wound on the chest of a man that is not present in the 1938 painting.  We discussed why Lawrence may have made these changes and how they might alter our interpretation of the prints.

We couldn’t discuss General Toussaint L’Ouverture without also looking at Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington.  Both men are shown in uniform, and both led revolutions that were happening around the same time, resulting in their respective countries gaining independence.

We also spent time making connections between Jacob Lawrence and artists like Renee Stout, and Romare Bearden.    Bearden and Lawrence were contemporaries, and both were very interested in showing scenes from African American life and history in their artworks.   Renee Stout is a contemporary artist who is inspired by African works of art, such as nkisi, and creates her own power figures. 

 If you would like to learn more about Jacob Lawrence and Toussaint L’Ouverture, I hope you’ll attend the Arts and Letters Live program on March 4th at 7:30 p.m., featuring Samella Lewis and Madison Smartt Bell.  I will lead a program for teachers in the exhibition beginning at 6:30 p.m. that evening.  We’ll explore the exhibition together before joining the program in the Horchow Auditorium.  I hope to see you on March 4th! 

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

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