Jacob Lawrence Artist Study

by Jimmie Lanley on September 24, 2010

j lawrence artist study

My first exposure to Jacob Lawrence was when I was teaching public school.  Our English textbook had some art transparencies that I used each Friday as writing prompts.

Lawrence’s image of Harriet Tubman forcing fearful slaves northward made a strong impression on me. The story goes that some escaping slaves were so tired of the journey that they wanted to give themselves up. Harriet Tubman pulled out a gun and threatened to kill them if they didn’t keep moving forward. Her drastic actions were necessary to protect the entire Underground Railroad movement. It was always a favorite with the class because of the vivid story behind the art.

When Sprite and I began doing artist study, I knew that eventually Jacob Lawrence would be an artist we would include. Back in America this summer, I purchased two books we could use. And here is the bulk of our artist study this term.



  1. Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence This was our primary source for art prints. It’s a full-color book with an engaging biography of Lawrence that I felt hadjust the right level of detail for a middle schooler.
  2. Jacob Lawrence (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) This book has smaller images and a less in-depth biography. It would be suitable for younger elementary students.

printables and activities

    jacob lawrence notebookingSprite is learning to type with Typing Instructor for Kids , so she is doing more and more of her work in Word and printing it out. These Jacob Lawrence notebooking pages are an example. (She cut out her text and glued it to the notebooking pages.)

  • notebooking pages — with full color images (see image above for thumbnails)
  • Colby College Museum of Art — full color image of Builders#1 plus questions for discussion.
  • Heckscher Museum of Art –28 page PDF with lots of full color art by Lawrence plus Lesson plans. If you wanted to study Lawrence without buying a book, this PDF could serve as your source of art prints.
  • New Orleans Museum of Art — In-depth biographical information as well as (B&W) artwork with analysis.

Sprite chose an image of a train moving through the night, one of the Migration series, to duplicate.

j lawrence artist study

Our study of Jacob Lawrence was also a great review of some of the American history we studied for the last two years — the Underground Railroad, the Harlem Renaissance, and the American Civil Rights Movement.

This is another perk of including the arts in your curriculum. Art ties together so many disciplines that it is a wonderful complement to whatever you study.

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