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Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle

Jacob Lawrence was one of the greatest narrative artists of the 20th century. His revolutionary, yet little-known, 30-panel series Struggle…From the History of the American People, painted between 1954 and 1956, invited a new way of chronicling erased histories about America’s founding. The paintings depict signal moments in the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic and feature the words and actions of founding fathers, enslaved people, women, and Native Americans. For the first time since 1958, the series is reunited, along with two new panels discovered in 2020 and 2021, presenting a new opportunity to address these panels not simply as history painting, but as new portals of perception and time.

Contemporary works by three artists—Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas—further enrich the context for this reunion of Lawrence’s Struggle series.

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

The exhibition is co-curated by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, former Senior Curator of The Phillips Collection, currently University Professor, Modern and American Art, University of Virginia, and Austen Barron Bailly, formerly PEM’s Curator of American Art and now Chief Curator, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, with support from Lydia Gordon, PEM’s Associate Curator. 

Senior Curator Elsa Smithgall is The Phillips Collection’s coordinating curator for this exhibition.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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