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Terra Foundation Adds Significant Jacob Lawrence Painting to its American Art Collection

June 24, 2013

Chicago, IL—The Terra Foundation for American Art announced today the recent acquisition of Bar-b-que by pioneering African American artist Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000). Created in 1942, the gouache-on-paper painting belongs to Lawrence’s thematic group of work about life in Harlem, a focal point of African-American culture in the twentieth century.

“Through Lawrence’s unique pictorial inventions, this painting represents a crucial time in the African American urban experience” explained Terra Foundation Vice President of Collections and Curatorial Affairs Elizabeth Hutton Turner. “The bold colors, stylized figures, and syncopated rhythm of the doorway and windows reference the sights and sounds of this vibrant community, as well as the psychological dimension of a segregated city.”

Born in 1917, Lawrence came to Harlem in 1930. In 1935 he began creating images of his community, using commercial poster paints and lightweight brown paper. Many portrayed working class life, including unvarnished observations of poverty and crime.

Lawrence first achieved national prominence when he created a 60-panel series of narrative paintings called The Migration of the Negro (now known simply as the Migration Series), which detailed the movement of African Americans from the rural south to the industrial north. The Phillips Collection and the Museum of Modern Art each purchased half of the series and sent it on an extended national tour for the duration of World War II, making him the most celebrated African American artist in the country at the time.

Bar-b-que is among Lawrence’s first paintings to combine multiple stories into one composition,” added Turner. “It complements important works from the Terra Foundation’s collection by artists associated with Lawrence, such as Stuart Davis, John Marin, and Charles Sheeler, all of whom exhibited alongside Lawrence at New York’s Downtown Gallery throughout the 1940s.”

The Terra Foundation collection comprises 731 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures dating from the late eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century by artists such as John Singleton Copley, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, and Edward Hopper. The Foundation works to ensure its collection is accessible, lending artworks to exhibitions worldwide, creating focused shows of its collection for public exhibition, and maintaining a comprehensive online database of artworks in the collection. Since 2005 more than 400 Terra Foundation objects have been loaned to 100 projects at 100 venues worldwide. On average, 20% of the foundation’s collection is on view around the world, compared to the general average of 5% for most museums.

Paintings by Jacob Lawrence are represented in nearly two hundred public collections throughout the country, and have been the subject of a number of major retrospective exhibitions.

Terra Foundation for American Art

Established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States. With financial resources of more than $250 million, an exceptional collection of American art from the colonial era to the mid-twentieth century, and an expansive grant program, it is one of the leading foundations focused on American art, and devotes approximately $12 million annually in support of American art exhibitions, projects, and research worldwide.