Builders No. 1

Jacob Lawrence


As a young artist working in Harlem during the 1930s, Jacob Lawrence was inspired by the ideals of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that celebrated African-American music, literature, poetry, and art.  The movement called upon visual artists to express and interpret the dignity of African-American lives and of African heritage, following the post-Civil War period in which depictions of African-Americans were frequently derogatory.  Infused with these ideas, Lawrence painted works in series that portrayed historic and contemporary struggles of African-Americans, emphasizing their heroism and determination. 

When he moved to Seattle to teach at the University of Washington in 1971, Lawrence began to concentrate his art more intensely on builders, a subject he had explored off and on since the 1940s.  In this body of work, Lawrence embraced the human aspiration that people can build a better society, and that the same creative energy that animates art or carpentry can animate social change.

  • Titles Builders No. 1 (Proper)
  • Artist Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917 - 2000
  • Medium gouache on paper with opaque watercolor and tempera
  • Dimensions 30 x 22 in. (76.2 x 55.9 cm)
  • Credit Line Museum purchase with donations from the Simpson Foundation, private contributors, and with Museum funds, 1972.26, image © 2009 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Reproduction, including downloading of Lawrence works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of ARS, New York.
  • Work Type painting
  • Classification Paintings