‘Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle’ proves worthwhile

Virtual exhibitions don’t disappoint


Fair use from Peabody Essex Museum.

Elena Ortiz-Fishman

Displayed digitally, Jacob Lawrence’s depiction of American history was all-encompassing. By the end of the virtual tour, the point he was trying to make was clear.

By reiterating the same sentiment people have been arguing over for years, this exhibit served to broadcast the struggles and prejudice that America has been built off of. 

The exhibit includes 25 paintings intended to shed light on underrepresented individuals from history. The original number was cut down from 60, but the display didn’t feel unfinished or rushed — the artist’s intent was evident. Lawrence is notorious for being one of the most celebrated American artists, and it’s truly stunning how he incorporates so much of his culture and soul into his pieces.

Besides the artwork, they’ve included important excerpts from historical quotes. These words and images complement each other well and add to the overall experience by showing the inspiration behind some of the works. So much thought was put into each piece, which made them much more compelling to the viewer — I knew what was going on and what they were trying to portray, which can be nebulous in other artists’ work. 

One-piece stuck out to me the most, titled after the Preamble of the Constitution, the piece is swathed in black and backed by harsh lines. The people in the painting look tired and worn down. Opposed to glorifying the moment, Lawrence portrays the American revolution as realistically as possible.

This honesty and raw emotion are what draws people in. Using cubism, his artwork is characterized by blocky shapes, rife in emotion and movement. “Struggle” was interesting in many ways, but mainly it made me want to look deeper into the sources and references Lawrence used. That’s why I liked it so much — it was informative. 

Overall, I would recommend taking a look at this to anyone who is bored and has time on their hands. It’s important to broaden your horizons and try new things, which for me was taking time out of my day to enjoy this virtual tour. It’s easy and free. Besides the outward beauty of each piece, you can find deeper meaning within the arbitrary lines. 

“Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle”: ★★★★★