Coinciding with the exhibition of the same name, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, edited by Elizabeth Hutton Turner and Austen Barron Bailly and co-published with the Peabody Essex Museum, sets the precedent for the next generation of Lawrence scholars and studies in modern and contemporary discourse. The American Struggle explores Jacob Lawrence’s radical way of transforming history into art by looking at his thirty panel series of paintings, Struggle . . . From the History of the American People (1954–56). Essays by Steven Locke, Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Austen Barron Bailly, and Lydia Gordon mark the historic reunion of this series—seen together in this exhibition for the first time since 1958. In entries on the panels, a multitude of voices responds to the episodes representing struggle from American history that Lawrence chose to activate in his series.
While the exhibition was on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the long missing Panel 16 was discovered and added to the collection. Lydia Gordon, exhibition coordinating curator at Peabody Essex Museum, wrote about the recent discovery for the museum’s blog:
Months before we put Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series on view at PEM last January, we began to dream that our exhibition of Lawrence’s works depicting the struggle for American democracy would help turn up several lost pieces of the narrative. Reuniting a lost series is a project of great significance. Struggle. . . From the History of the American People is the only series of paintings by the great American artist that didn’t stick together. We wanted to know why? And, more importantly, where were they? These were the driving questions behind the research to unearth Lawrence’s vision of American history from more than 60 years ago. After years of digging through the archives, papers, exhibition history and connecting with gallerists, private collectors and institutions, we knew enough to account for every painting in the series through their titles and therefore, give all 30 paintings their symbolic and interpretive place within the narrative. However, for two of them, we had no idea what they even looked like. They had disappeared from public memory almost immediately after they left Lawrence’s gallery.
Click here to read the rest of the discovery story on PEM’s blog.
The exhibition travels next to the Seattle Art Museum. It will be on display from March 5 until May 23. Visit SAM’s website to learn more about the exhibit. Click here for more on SAM’s re-opening and what to know when planning your visit.