Jacob Lawrence, ‘Escape’, ca. 1967, Phillips

Image 17 1/4 x 10 in. (43.8 x 25.4 cm.)
Overall 17 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (45.1 x 29.2 cm.)

Peter Nesbett has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work.

From the Catalogue:
"When the subjects are strong, I believe simplicity is the best way of treating them."
Jacob Lawrence

The present lot belongs to a series of works by African American artist Jacob Lawrence exploring the life and legend of Harriet Tubman. Throughout his prolific oeuvre, Lawrence repeatedly depicted both Tubman’s own escape from slavery to freedom in Philadelphia, and also her subsequent courageous success in helping hundreds more slaves escape to Canada along the Underground Railroad. Beginning in 1939, the artist embarked on a series of 31 panels illustrating these historical moments. In 1967, the year of the present lot’s execution, he revisited the subject when he wrote and illustrated the children’s book Harriet and the Promised Land, creating a number of independent paintings and works on paper during the same time. In Escape, Tubman is depicted in vibrant blocks of color quintessential to Lawrence’s style, helping four slaves find their way towards the North Star. The group’s gaze towards the left indicate a sense of forward movement without any sort of active brushwork, highlighting the artist’s role as both painter and storyteller, himself having grown up listening to stories of his own ancestors who migrated North.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed "Jacob Lawrence" lower right

The Artist
Private Collection (acquired from the above circa 1967)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Jacob Lawrence

Based on diligent research and inspired by Harlem Renaissance artists Augusta Savage and Charles Alston, Jacob Lawrence illustrated African American history through colorful narrative paintings. His subjects included series on prominent figures in the struggle for black liberation, such as Harriet Tubman; his “The Great Migration” (1940-41) chronicled the Depression-era flight of African Americans from the impoverished rural south to northern cities. Comprising 60 tempera works executed simultaneously with unifying color schemes and visual motifs, it depicted heart-wrenching everyday scenes. New York Times critic Holland Cotter once described Lawrence’s oeuvre as having a “sinewy moral texture...that is in the business of neither easy uplift nor single-minded protest.” Lawrence adopted his characteristic simple forms and abstract elements from African art, linking that aesthetic tradition to present-day black identity.

American, 1917-2000, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Group Shows

Galerie Myrtis, 
Art of the Collector IV
New York, NY, United States,
RISING UP/UPRISING: Twentieth Century African American Art
New York, NY, United States,
INsite/INchelsea: The Inaugural Exhibition
New York, NY, United States,
African American Art: 200 Years
New York, NY, United States,
Embracing the Muse: Africa and African American Art
New York, NY, United States,
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery: The First Decade
New York, NY, United States,
African-American Art: 20th Century Masterworks
View Artist's CV