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Jacob Lawrence Self-Portrait

Jacob A. Lawrence, 7 Sep 1917 - 9 Jun 2000
Jacob A. Lawrence, 7 Sep 1917 - 9 Jun 2000
Ink over graphite on paper
Sheet: 28.6 x 24.8cm (11 1/4 x 9 3/4")
Mat (Verified): 45.1 × 40.5 cm (17 3/4 × 15 15/16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; the Ruth Bowman and Harry Kahn Twentieth-Century American Self-Portrait Collection Conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee
Restrictions & Rights
© The Jacob & Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Object number
Jacob A. Lawrence: American\African American
Exhibition Label
Jacob Lawrence 1917-2000
Jacob Lawrence, best known for his dynamic depictions of African American life and history, rarely engaged in portraiture. But when he made a self-portrait like this one, he treated his own face like his other subjects-as a basis for inventing expressive abstract shapes. In this drawing, Lawrence concentrated his appearance into a few essential lines and shapes. A black arc describes the shape of his skull, only thinly covered by hair. His shaggy mustache is a complex of wavy lines flanked by heavier curves evoking folds of aging flesh. Lawrence left most of his face white to set off the abstracted black shapes of his nose, eyes, mouth, and mustache. Lawrence poetically combined observation with geometry to reflect both his appearance and his approach to art.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection