cover image Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence

Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence

Chronicle Books, John Duggleby, Jacob Lawrence. Chronicle Books, $16.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2082-0

Duggleby (Artist in Overalls: The Life of Grant Wood) once again enlarges upon themes in an American artist's life and work to create a gratifying portrait of a particular time and place. Lawrence's expressionistic, stark paintings, in excellent full-page color reproduction, together with an artful layout incorporating the artist's blocky color fields and rhythmic patterns, nicely complement Duggleby's measured account of a materially poor but culturally rich childhood and Lawrence's subsequent struggles and successes. The author subtly works in the effect of the dearth of materials during the Depression on Lawrence's emerging style as well as the artist's mission to convey the legacy of African Americans in his series paintings. The painter's links to the Harlem renaissance, the segregated military, civil rights and black pride movements are explored through anecdotes, photographs, paintings and opening quotes for each chapter, by such contemporaries as Langston Hughes, Fats Waller and Martin Luther King Jr. Excerpts from Lawrence's Toussaint L'Ouverture (1937-1938), Migration of the Negro (1940-1941) and Harriet and the Promised Land (1967) series provide lessons in earlier black history as well as art appreciation, and pave the way for his milestone acceptance in the art world at large. This solid work of biography/art history commemorates an extraordinary living artist and pays tribute to Lawrence's determination, optimism and originality. Ages 6-12. (Oct.)