Lawrence’s style of painting grew out of his belief that above all else art should communicate a message. Everyone of his paintings is meant to tell us something: it expresses a story, event, or a timely concern. He is a narrative painter because he tells us stories with his paintings. What kind of stories does he tell and why did he choose the themes he did?
Events and injustices . . . galvanize Lawrence into action . . .
Living in the world today it is hard to avoid hearing news, news of the world around us, news from across the globe, news from around the corner. We hear so much, most of these things we forget but some things we can’t forget because they interest us or bother us too much. These are the things we talk to our friends about or think about.
Jacob Lawrence was black and he grew up in Harlem. When he was growing up the black man wasn’t free to go everywhere. There was hatred, segregation, and violence between blacks and whites. This affected him; he couldn’t help but wonder why? What was the reason? He couldn’t forget it because it effected him everyday.
This is what motivated Lawrence to investigate his peoples’ past. He wanted to understand and be proud of his heritage and he wanted to share his discoveries with others so they in turn could be proud. Through his paintings he told the story of great black leaders. He found that one painting was often inadequate to tell the whole story so he painted a series of pictures, telling history through pictures as a book tells us stories in words.
A review will follow that will test for comprehension. I may even read some of the stories from last week to see how perceptive we were at interpreting Lawrence’s work without any background knowledge. After our review conversation will focus on the students. I will ask a question like: What kinds of things bother you? In school, on your way home from school, at home, or on T.V.? We can pick one of these topics and brainstorm ideas as a class. As the students throw out their ideas I will be writing them on the board. Next we can look over our list and pick one concern to discuss. This concern might be about drugs. My next question would be—How can we communicate this idea without using words, with pictures alone? I will remind them to think about Lawrence’s work. We would then brainstorm ideas for different approaches.