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 notebooking

      Sprite 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.

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.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sybille September 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Thank you for sharing, Jimmie! I didn’t know this artist. He seems interesting, I will remember your lesson.


Christie September 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm

He is one of my absolute favorites! Here are some of the resources I used last year for my coop class.



Giggly Girls September 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Great study. I’ll have to add him to our list. He would have been a good one to for us to study this year as we’re just covering the Civil War period in history.

My daughter loves the Getting to Know…series.


Sparklee September 24, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Thanks for all the great resource suggestions and links!


Nadene September 25, 2010 at 12:04 am

This looks excellent! I also love it when several subjects link together with art. These visual images, once studied intensely, will last a lifetime!


amy in peru September 25, 2010 at 10:16 am

I’d very much like to remember this post when we come to this time period again later on. We were there last year. I guess that will be year 11 on AO’s 6 year rotation! 🙂 I think I’ll need a reminder by then…


amy in peru


Angela September 25, 2010 at 10:44 am

I always love you ideas Jimmie! I would totally love to be in a co-op with you! Thanks for sharing this; I’m sure I’ll use these pages one day for art appreciation. 🙂


MarshaMarshaMarsha September 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

I had not heard of Jacob Lawrence before. Thanks for introducing him to me!


Yvonne September 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

Bravo!! I’m seriously impressed with your curriculum and subject matters. I, too, want to incorporate minority artists, civil war and the American Civil Rights Movements, but my concern is my childrens age. My eldest just turned 7 and my youngest is 5. Not sure how to discuss/teach such sensitive subjects. I’m a huge history buff, but I don’t want to freak my kids out. At least not yet…smile!!

Can you recommend an appropriate age/grade for such dramatic, yet important, subject matters?

Thanks again and I love your blog.


Pam September 28, 2010 at 4:15 am

I absolutely love you blog. I know you’ve probably gotten this award before, but I passed along the “One Lovely Blog” award to you. If you’d like to pass it on, you can pick it up at http://www.carlivia.blogspot.com. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us!


Michelle September 30, 2010 at 5:47 am

This looks like something the girls would love to do! *taking notes*

BTW, you have been awarded the One Lovely Blog award


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