SCAD Museum of Art Celebrates the Centennial of Artist Jacob Lawrence's Birth

The SCAD Museum of Art presents Lines of Influence, a group exhibition to celebrate the centennial of the birth of Jacob Lawrence, acclaimed painter, storyteller, educator and chronicler of the American experience.

Opening Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, Lines of Influence features a diverse selection of historical and contemporary artists across three galleries of the SCAD Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible thanks to the support of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) was mentored by Charles Alston and heavily influenced by the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance. After receiving a scholarship to the American Artists School in 1937, he soon distinguished himself as an exceptional voice in American painting. From 1941 until 1953, Lawrence exhibited regularly at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery, New York, and throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, he was a regular participant in annual exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Today, Lawrence’s work is represented in almost 200 museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Lawrence was the first African-American artist to be represented by a major commercial gallery. During his prolific career, Lawrence was presented with numerous awards and accolades. He earned the National Medal of Arts and was the recipient of 18 honorary doctorates from universities including Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; New York University, New York; and Howard University, Washington, D.C. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and served as a commissioner for the National Council on the Arts.


Romare Bearden, The Block II, collage on board, 25½” x 74”, 1972. Collection of Dr. Walter O. Evans. Art © Romare Bearden Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York.



Lines of Influence is divided into two distinct, yet complementary sections. The first section explores how historically important artists as well as Lawrence’s mentors, contemporaries and his own inner circle impacted his practice, while the second section examines his profound influence on artists working today. 

Artists featured in the historic portion of the exhibition include Josef Albers, Richmond Barthé, Romare Bearden, George Grosz, Marsden Hartley, Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, Horace Pippin and Augusta Savage, among others.

Lines of Influence continues into the present with contemporary artists whose strategies and themes reflect those of Lawrence. Artists commissioned to create works expressly for this exhibition include Derrick Adams, Meleko Mokgosi, Barbara Earl Thomas and Hank Willis Thomas. Other artists featured in this section are Faith Ringgold, Jack Whitten, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Sanford Biggers and Kara Walker, among others.

The exhibition’s curatorial approach creates a contextually rich and widespread ground for the reading of Lawrence’s work. During his lifetime, Lawrence occupied an interstitial position in the art world. Despite significant early exhibitions at renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and features in national press outlets, Lawrence was considered both an insider and outsider, caught in a racially divided environment and edged to the margins of American  modernism. This exhibition attempts to unravel such categorizations.

On view Sept. 7, 2017, through Feb. 4, 2018, Lines of Influence will be accompanied by a reception Oct. 19, a symposium Oct. 19 through 20 and an exhibition catalog. A curriculum guide that aligns with National Core Arts Standards and which can be used by educators at the museum, in the classroom and beyond will be developed. 

The exhibition is organized by Storm Janse van Rensburg, head curator of exhibitions at SCAD with assistance from Amanda York, assistant curator of exhibitions at SCAD.


Richmond Barthé, Head of a Dancer, bronze, 18" x 7", 1937. Gift of Dr. Walter O. and Mrs. Linda J. Evans. SCAD Museum of Art Permanent Collection.



The SCAD Museum of Art features emerging and established voices in the contemporary art world through commissioned artwork and rotating exhibitions; develops rich connections between university curriculum and exhibitions, programming and the museum’s collection; engages local communities with projects of an international scope and serves as a resource for SCAD students and alumni during their academic careers and beyond. 

As a teaching museum and center for cultural dialogue, the SCAD Museum of Art engagesstudents through dynamic, interdisciplinary educational experiences. A growing roster of exhibited domestic and international artists provides ample opportunity for students from all majors to learn about a wide range of artistic practices and worldviews. Museum docents, all SCAD students from multifarious degree programs and backgrounds, conduct extensive research on exhibited works to share with museum visitors. Award-winning curriculum guides for students and teachers provide lesson plans, checklists, visual aids and historical context for artists, their work and influences. 

The museum’s permanent collection includes the Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art, the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection, the Earle W. Newton Collection of British and American Art, the 19th- and 20th-century Photography Collection and the SCAD Costume Collection. Exhibited artists include Jane Alexander, Radcliffe Bailey, Subodh Gupta, Alfredo Jaar, Sigalit Landau, Liza Lou, Ebony G. Patterson, Robin Rhode, Bill Viola, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley and Fred Wilson. Artists such as Daniel Arsham, Kendall Buster, Jose Dávila, Michael Joo and Odili Donald Odita created site-specific installations specifically for the SCAD Museum of Art. Oscar de la Renta and Vivienne Westwood are among previously featured fashion designers, and Dakota Jackson and Steven and William Ladd have been the subjects of solo design exhibitions.

The museum’s architecture demonstrates the university’s ongoing commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Originally constructed in 1853 and transformed in 2011 by architect Christian Sottile — a university alumnus and SCAD architecture professor — the museum building is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot in the country.


Left: Aaron Douglas, The Creation, gouache on paper, 12¼" x 9", 1927. Gift of Dr. Walter O. and Mrs. Linda J. Evans.

SCAD Museum of Art Permanent Collection. Art © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Right: Aaron Douglas, The Judgment Day, gouache on paper, 11¾" x 9", 1927. Gift of Dr. Walter O. and Mrs. Linda J. Evans.

SCAD Museum of Art Permanent Collection. Art © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York



The Savannah College of Art and Design is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution conferring bachelor’s and master’s degrees at distinctive locations and online to prepare talented students for professional careers. SCAD offers degrees in more than 40 majors, as well as minors in more than 75 disciplines across its locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia; in Hong Kong; in Lacoste, France; and online through SCAD eLearning.

With more than 40,000 alumni worldwide, SCAD demonstrates an exceptional education and unparalleled career preparation. The diverse student body, consisting of approximately 13,000, comes from across the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Each student is nurtured and motivated by a faculty of nearly 700 professors with extraordinary academic credentials and valuable professional experience. These professors emphasize learning through individual attention in an inspiring university environment. The innovative SCAD curriculum is enhanced by advanced professional-level technology, equipment and learning resources, and has garnered acclaim from respected organizations and publications, including 3D World, American Institute of Architects, Businessweek, DesignIntelligence, U.S. News & World Report and the Los Angeles Times.

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Director of University Communications


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