Interdisciplinary Arts HU 2301-Online
Lawrence and Hopper
Jacob Lawrence and Edward Hopper were American painters/artists. Both Lawrence and Hopper painted in the time of the Great Depression and the Second World War. The Great Depression described the period that dramatically changed American nation and economy. It was caused by the US stock market crash of October 1929. This Great Depression was marked by massive job losses, hunger, suicide, discrimination especially against African Americans and women in general; shift in family structure and social life were characteristic of this time as well. World War II was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945.
Jacob Lawrence was an African- American who had firsthand experience living in Harlem, which was the subject of some of his paintings. One of Lawrence’s hallmark pieces, a series entitled The Migration of the Negro 1940-1941 highlight and reflect the struggles particularly those of African Americans. He responded to the period by creating images of depicting migration, struggles, daily life and oppression among other experiences thematic of African American life during the time. Hopper on the other hand does not narrow in particularly on a group or people but his paintings are thematic of the general mind set during the Depression. His subject matter is more generalized with overwhelming loneliness and echoing isolation of modern life (Kleiner 412).
Lawrence creates emotion in his work through his Cubism style and by capturing actual scenes of African American life and experiences. The segregation is distinct in scenes and struggles are evident. His solid colors help give life to the paintings. A sense of bleakness and of degradation of African American life in the north, post migration dominate the images (413). Hopper stops motion in his paintings and suspends time (412). Such is evident in Hopper’s Nighthawks 1942 which is set on the corner of a dark street with only three patrons in a restaurant. According to Kleiner, the surrounding echoing spaces surrounding the people evokes the pervasive loneliness of modern humans (412).
Both artists existed and worked in a similar period, however, different aspects of the time were portrayed by each. Lawrence addressed discrimination, social disorganization and inequality and Hopper addressed the economy, depression and possible effects of the war and time on communities and human beings.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardener’s Art through the Ages:A Concise Western History third edition. Boston: Wadsworth, 2014. Print.
Lawrence, Jacob. The Migration Series. The Phillips Collection. electronic . 1 October 2013. <http://www.phillipscollection.org/collection/migration-series/>.