Jacob Lawrence’s Bar-b-que Makes a Splash in Terra’s Collection

Jacob Lawrence, Bar-b-que, 1942. Gouache on paper, 29 1/2 x 21 1/8 inches (sight); 30 7/8 x 22 1/2 inches (paper). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Fund, 2013.1. © 2013 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York.

The exciting news of the Terra Foundation for American Art’s recent acquisition of a 1942 masterpiece by Jacob Lawrence, Bar-b-que (1942), has me reflecting once again on the extraordinary achievement of this artist whom writer Claude McKay called “a peerless delineator of the Harlem scenes and types.” The Terra now has yet another gem among its holdings as this work by Lawrence most certainly is. When you consider that Lawrence painted it just one year after his groundbreaking The Migration Series, of which the Phillips owns half, you can see just how fast that train was moving with the young, aspiring twenty-four year-old artist at its helm. With its jazz-like syncopated rhythms flowing through the complex multi-storied composition, Lawrence captures in Bar-b-que a characteristic moment in the leisure life of the working class Harlem community with which he so closely identified.

Seeing Terra’s latest acquisition by Lawrence also triggered a connection with one of our own Stuart Davis paintings, Corner Café (1930), in which Davis evokes the vitality of Parisian life in the 1930s through alternating rhythmic patterns, calligraphic signs, and bold color. The connection is no accident as Lawrence came to know Davis personally through their shared role as artists on Edith Halpert’s roster for the Downtown Gallery.

Elsa Smithgall, Curator

Stuart Davis, Corner Cafe, 1930. Oil on canvas, 15 x 18 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1931.

Dispatches: Last Day in Pakistan

Read Rachel’s last post in her series on teaching art workshops in Pakistan here. You can follow her on Twitter @EducatorRachel and also on Instagram.

Today was my last day in Pakistan and what an adventure it’s been! I’ve worked with artists, students, curators, teachers, and museum/gallery professionals from all walks of life and from every corner of Pakistan. Today’s workshop was with art teachers from Islamabad and the surrounding areas. We used the Phillips’s Jacob Lawrence and The Migration Series Teaching Kit to explore different ways to teach art at their school. This group of educators was enthusiastic and eager. Together they brainstormed wonderful lesson ideas. Some teachers talked about using The Migration Series to inspire their students to write poetry, others proposed using it as a way to introduce the idea of beginning/middle/end in storytelling, and there was much discussion about comparing and contrasting Lawrence’s migration story to the stories of those Pakistanis who migrated during partition.

I have had an incredibly rich, warm, and world-view expanding experience here in Pakistan over the last couple of weeks, and I am incredibly grateful to have been sent on this journey! Stay tuned for an article with more details about my adventure in the Phillips’s fall members magazine. In the meantime, I’m signing off from Islamabad.

Art teachers use the kit to brainstorm ideas for using the migration series in their classroom. Photos: Rachel Goldberg.

Art teachers use the kit to brainstorm ideas for using the migration series in their classroom. Photos: Rachel Goldberg.

Teachers consider the universal themes in Lawrence's work and discuss ways to integrate the arts into their lessons. Photos: Rachel Goldberg.

Teachers consider the universal themes in Lawrence’s work and discuss ways to integrate the arts into their lessons.

Rachel Goldberg, Manager of School, Outreach, and Family Programs

Dispatches: Paint Like a Child

Ajani Husbands, an Assistant Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is working with the Phillips’s Rachel Goldberg as she facilitates workshops. Read Rachel’s last post in her series on teaching art workshops in Pakistan here. You can follow her on Twitter @EducatorRachel and also on Instagram.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” —Pablo Picasso

Image of Mashal Model School students in Islamabad, Pakistan

Students at Mashal Model School in Islamabad, Pakistan.

One may never see such enthusiasm, such vigor for life as is visible in the work of the students from the Mashal Model School in Islamabad, Pakistan. The students at the school are mostly refugees from Afghanistan, internally displaced persons (IDPs) from throughout Pakistan, or simply street children, who have run away from abuse or poverty at home. When children come from such conditions, one expects them to be angry and bitter towards the world. Yet the children of the Mashal Model School exude love and an eagerness to learn.

Students create art in response to Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Students create art in response to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Watching Rachel Goldberg work with the children was truly remarkable. The students quickly snapped up Jacob Lawrence’s story, asking pointed questions after Rachel’s brief explanation. “Were his parents rich?” “Is he in any of the paintings?” “Why didn’t he paint any faces?”

Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg conducts a workshop

The Phillips’s Rachel Goldberg in action, conducting a workshop in Islamabad.

For many of these children, The Migration Series is an easy concept to grasp, having emigrated from Afghanistan or the farthest reaches of Pakistan to end up in Islamabad. Their artwork reflected such journeys, with stories as vivid as the ones depicted in Jacob Lawrence’s work.

One student made a collage of his vision for his old school in Afghanistan, a brand new building with several stories and the sun shining overhead. Another created a tree, surrounded by a border with a red snake climbing up the trunk. “His family is trapped inside the tree,” the school’s director explained, “and the snake represents the religious extremists ready to strike against his family should they leave.” The students’ stories spoke volumes, telling lifetimes of experiences on single sheets of paper.

Zeba Husain, founder and director of Mashal Model School, spoke a little bit about the school and the workshop in an impromptu interview. The interview was cut short since a student had to leave early. “He says that he’s done drawing and has to go to work,” she explains. The student, perhaps 12 years old (he himself was unsure of his age) had drawn a colorful train, but was running late for his job selling samosas. Still, he had drawn the train with such purpose that one wondered if he minded being late at all, or would have stayed to draw some more if circumstances permitted.

Picasso and Raphael never experienced the lives lived by the children at Mashal Model School. Perhaps this is why it has taken them lifetimes to learn how to paint with the fervor of these children.

You can find out more about Mashal Model School on its website and Facebook page.

Ajani Husbands, Assistant Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan