Deconstructing Lawrence’s Struggle Series: Panel 24

This spring, former Phillips curator Beth Turner taught an undergraduate practicum at the University of Virginia focusing on Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series. In this multi-part blog series, responses from Turner’s students in reference to individual works from the series will be posted each week.

Struggle_Panel 24

Jacob Lawrence, Struggle … From the History of the American People, no. 24: Of the Senate House, the President’s Palace, the barracks, the dockyard…nothing could be seen except heaps of smoking ruins…—A British Officer at Washington, 1814 (Burning of Washington DC August 24, 1814), 1956. Egg tempera on hardboard, 16 x 12 in. Private Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Of the Senate House, the President’s Palace, the barracks, the dockyard… nothing could be seen except heaps of smoking ruins– A British officer at Washington, 1814 (1956)

The War of 1812 moved to the capital when British troops arrived in Washington on August 24, 1814, without encountering much resistance. That evening, they began the systematic destruction of all public buildings, including the White House and the Capitol. It was said that the city was swallowed in flames that could be seen miles away.

Lawrence’s depiction of the Burning of Washington focuses on the violence and destruction with the canons firing against a dark, smoke-filled sky. A dash of red dripping from one of the cannons adds to the destructive nature of the scene. Off to the left corner of the panel is the corpse of a small bird, still bleeding. The only indication of what this panel is about comes from the title and the caption, which is a quote from a British soldier’s eyewitness account. This panel was completed in 1956, when the Montgomery bus boycott ended successfully. Prior to this successful conclusion, in February 1956, Martin Luther King’s house was bombed. An analogy can be made between the bombing of King’s house and the destruction of Washington in 1814. King was one of the central figures of the boycott; the bombing of his house with the intention of killing him was a certain attempt to cut off the source of inspirations and support of the African American communities to continue fighting for their rights.

Phuong Nguyen

Phillips-at-Home Summer Series #1: Community

With students out of school, some families may have more time to slow down, reconnect, and enjoy their long summer days. We hope to see you around the Phillips this summer (check out upcoming events), but you can always bring The Phillips Collection into your home through creative art-making activities for artists of all ages. Tune in to the blog over the next several weeks for the Phillips-at-Home Summer Series to learn more about artists in our collection and discover new ways to make their artworks come to life.

Our first project of the series features the artist Heinrich Campendonk. Campendonk’s painting Village Street currently hangs in the Phillips’s family’s former dining room.  For this art activity, you will create a collage-style painting inspired by your environment and your community—just like Heinrich Campendonk.

Village Street, Oil on canvas

Heinrich Campendonk, Village Street, 1919, Oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 26 3/4 in. Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Look closely: What do you see in this painting? What colors do you see and how do they make you feel? Do you think this painting looks realistic? Why or why not?  How does Campendonk create a collage-like effect in this painting?

About the artist: Heinrich Campendonk was born in Krefeld, Germany on November 3, 1889. While he was working on this painting (1916-1922), Campendonk was living in Seeshaupt, Bavaria. (Bavaria is a state in southeastern Germany bordering Liechtenstein, Austria and the Czech Republic.)

Campendonk used many Bavarian elements in this painting, such as a church, spotted cows, lean-to sheds, spruce trees and wooden fences. All of these elements represent Campendonk’s community to the viewer.  He used luminous colors such as red, blue, brown—can you see how these colors appear to rise out from the dark background? In keeping with Campendonk’s technique, our first project encourages you to get outside, explore your neighborhood, and create a picture that artistically shows your observations.


Materials needed

Materials needed

  • Plain white paper
  • Graphite pencils
  • 12” x 20” paper for final project (larger than 8.5 x 11’’ encouraged. Canvas is optional)
  • Red, yellow, blue (Primary colors) and black & white tempera paint (has a faster dry time)
  • Paper plate palette for paint
  • A couple of paint brushes (markers optional)
  • Scissors 


  • Ages 10 and up

*See optional project modification for younger age groups*


  • Full-day activity (6-8 hours)



1. Go on a walk in your neighborhood. Bring a sketchpad to record your observations. What makes your neighborhood special? What are some of its identifying characteristics?

A look into my adventures around the Phillips Collection and Dupont Circle

Exploring around the Phillips Collection and Dupont Circle, Photo: Julia Kron

2. Do at least one sketch of each of the following:

  • Your house
  • Your street
  • One building in your area
  • An animal or plant
  • A detail that you consider important to your neighborhood

Once you are happy with your observations, return back to an art-making space to begin the final project.


3. Look through your sketches and select at least 5 observations for your final painting. Cut them out.

Step 3 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda

Step 3 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda



4. Arrange the cut-outs on your larger piece of paper, move them around like a puzzle, thinking about a background, middleground and foreground in your composition. Campendonk’s composition is arranged like a collage; feel free to overlap your sketches, use geometric shapes and lines, and play around with the scale and arrangement of your objects.

Step 4 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda

Step 4 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda






5. If you would like to alter the scale of your sketches, you may choose to re-draw them on your larger paper. Otherwise, go ahead and glue down your sketches onto the paper. Heinrich Campendonk frequently used geometric shapes and symbols to represent his surroundings and you can do the same!

6. When you are ready to begin painting, select a few colors that encapsulate your experience in your neighborhood. As a member of the Blaue Reiter group, Heinrich Campendonk was highly impacted by color and used color to represent his emotions and sensations, rather than the reality of his surroundings. Because of this, his paintings often have a dream-like appearance.

7. Start painting your background layer first and work your way to the foreground.  Make sure to take your time painting, allowing each layer to dry to maintain your colors.

8. You have created a beautiful painting!  Please leave a comment or share a picture of your creation with the Phillips on Twitter (@PhillipsMuseum).

Final Example #1

Final Example #1 for 10 and up audience, done with tempera paint, Painting: Hayley Prihoda

Final Example #2

Final Example #2 for 10 and up audience, done with tempera paint, Painting: Julia Kron












*For younger audiences, focus on shapes, colors, and symbols during your walk. Sketch five different objects around the community (your house, a building, a plant or animal, your street, and other details). Use markers to color the sketches and then cut them out. Paste sketches onto larger paper using a glue stick. Add additional colors as desired. 

Final Example for younger audience, done with markers

Final Example for younger audience, done with markers, Drawing: Julia Kron

Tune in regularly for more great art activities inspired by The Phillips Collection!

Hayley Prihoda and Julia Kron, K12 Education Interns

A Sculptor’s Drawings: Jae Ko in 2-Dimensions

Jae Ko_three JKD works_Modern Vision

Jae Ko, Untitled (JKD#4), 2011; Untitled (JKD#10), 2014; Untitled (JKD#11), 2014. Promised gift of Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan, 2014. Image courtesy of Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, DC

DC-based artist Jae Ko works in a studio eighty miles outside of the city in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. It is fitting that she works away from the hustle and bustle of the city; when she needs inspiration, she and her partner Jim Sanborn, also an artist, drive around exploring quiet backroads. They seek places of solitude, free of other people. Ko says she does not bring any sketchbooks or supplies with her, and does not take photographs. She simply sits outside and absorbs her surroundings, observing and feeling the sky, the air, and the atmosphere. These moments in nature inspire her work.

Jae Ko_three Black_Intersections at 5

Jae Ko, Black #22, 2014; Black #23, 2014; Black #24, 2014

Ko’s oeuvre consists mostly of abstract, organic forms made from simple, ephemeral materials. Natural forms she observes in nature return in her art. For example, looking over a cliff onto a winding river below may stick in her memory, and later become evident in the twisting form of a sculptural piece. Her giant sculptural work Force of Nature was featured in an Intersections show at the Phillips in 2011. She views her works as living, and therefore always changing. Ko intentionally works with materials that are subject to deterioration and transformation. She does not strive for perfection, and enjoys watching the effect of time on her art. Sometimes the random “accidents” that happen during her process are what inspire new ideas. Two groups of Ko’s works are now on view at the museum: Untitled (JKD #4), 2011; Untitled (JKD #10), 2014; Untitled (JKD #11), 2014 and Black #22; Black #23; and Black #24, 2014. These works give viewers the chance to see another side of the sculptor, working with flatter, 2-dimensional concepts.

Untitled (JKD #4), 2011; Untitled (JKD #10), 2014; and Untitled (JKD #11), 2014 are currently featured in the exhibition Modern Vision: American Sculptors’ Drawings from the Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan Collection. Lined up horizontally, these three works are composed of calligraphic ink and glue. Ko started these particular drawings in 1998, but only worked on them periodically, unhappy with the result until recently. She started with ink drawings in a spiral shape, and began to apply layers of ink mixed with glue. The build up of the glue-ink mixture added an element of fluidity to the work; as temperature fluctuates, the glue starts to melt or slightly change over time.

Similar in their circular and spiral shapes, Black #22; Black #23; and Black #24, 2014 are now on view as part of Intersections @ 5: Contemporary Art Projects at the Phillips. She had a sketch for this work in her sketchbook for over 20 years before making these drawings. Ko doesn’t think that drawings necessarily need to be pencil to be classified as such, and she considers this work one of her drawings. Made from vinyl cord that Ko ordered online, each one of these series took the artist about a week of intense work to complete. She foregoes the traditional artist supply stores, looking instead for materials that come pre-rolled. The vinyl cord was a local craft store find. Vinyl is very difficult to work with, since it is impossible to make the cord lay flat, but Ko did not want the circular and spiral forms of the work to be perfect anyway. The plastic vinyl is flexible, fluctuating with temperature, and therefore constantly changing with time, like her other pieces.

All of Ko’s work is related. Her drawings maintain the same changing, organic forms that define her sculpture. I’ll be interested to see what becomes of these works in 20 years, when time has taken more of a toll. But for now, I’ll just have to enjoy the drawings on view.

Emily Conforto, Marketing & Communications Intern