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Gallery Text

As a young member of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in the late 1930s, Jacob Lawrence painted scenes of life in Harlem and produced significant narrative series depicting the actions of prominent figures in African American history. Continuing his earlier mode of exploration, the Struggle series depicts critical moments in the nation’s development by synthesizing historical documentation and metaphorical interpretation. In this work, one of thirty panels, Lawrence references the clash over states’ rights and personal freedoms. In the context of the resurgent civil rights movement of the 1950s, his Struggle series may be seen as a parallel effort to integrate American history and to reaffirm the historical foundation for the rights of all Americans.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jacob Lawrence, American (Atlantic City, NJ 1917 - 2000 Seattle, WA)
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility... --17 September 1787
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: Struggle...From The History of the American People
Former Title: No. 15: Creation
Alternate Title: Creation
Alternate Title: Creation (Constitutional Convention)
Alternate Title: We the People
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1320, Modern and Contemporary Art, Social Realism
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Physical Descriptions
Egg tempera over graphite underdrawing on gessoed hardboard
panel:: 30.3 × 40.5 × 0.5 cm (11 15/16 × 15 15/16 × 3/16 in.)
framed: 45.7 × 55.9 × 3.8 cm (18 × 22 × 1 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: Jacob Lawrence 55
  • inscription: verso, upper left, graphite: 15
  • label: back of frame: Midtown Payson Galleries Inc., 11870 SE, Dixie Hwy, Hobe Sound, Fla 33455
  • label: back of frame: no. 131 "Struggle" series (from the History of the American People) no. 15; 1955-66; lent by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Sass
  • inscription: verso, center: CREATION
  • label: back of frame: Whitney; no. 131; J. Lawrence exhibition
  • label: back of frame: Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Sass; 31 Evergreen; No. Caldwell, NJ
  • label: back of frame: Midtown Payson Galleries; 745 Fifth Avenue; New York, New York 10141; 212-758-1900; Acc: JLW00020+ []
  • label: back of frame: Terry Dintenfass Inc.; $1300
  • label: back of frame: "This is one of 2 entries I am submitting to the Jury" [box is checked for watercolor]
  • label: back of frame: xerox from unknown source
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Sass. [Midtown Payson Galleries, New York, New York].
[G. W. Einstein Company, Inc., New York, New York], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1995.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Francis H. Burr Memorial Fund, Richard Norton Fund, Henry George Berg Bequest Fund, Anonymous Fund in memory of Henry Berg, and Alpheus Hyatt Fund
© The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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This is one of 30 paintings from Jacob Lawrence's Struggle Series.
Publication History

Jacob Lawrence, "American Struggle: Three Paintings", Vogue (July 1957), vol. 130, pp. 66-67

Charles Alan, Jacob Lawrence, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1975)

Leslie King-Hammond and John Whitney Payson, Jacob Lawrence, an Overview: Paintings from 1936-1994, exh. cat., Midtown Payson Galleries (New York, NY, 1995), reproduced in color on cover

Cate McQuaid, "Remembering Jacob Lawrence, an African-American Pioneer", The Boston Globe (Boston, MA, June 18, 2000), repr. in color, Arts section

James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 81, ill. (b/w)

Austen Barron Bailly and Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, exh. cat., Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA, 2019), pp. 37, 94-95, 165, 172, panel 15, ill. (color)

"The Struggle is joined at the Peabody Essex", The Magazine Antiques (2020), p. 26-28, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

Jacob Lawrence: Struggle ...From the History of the American People, The Alan Gallery, New York, 12/28/1956 - 01/19/1957

Jacob Lawrence: Struggle ...From the History of the American People, The Alan Gallery, New York, 05/05/1958 - 05/14/1958

Jacob Lawrence: Retrospective Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 01/01/1974 - 03/01/1974; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, 03/01/1974 - 05/01/1974; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, 05/01/1974 - 07/01/1974; Lauren Tucker, Seattle, 07/01/1974 - 09/01/1974; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 09/01/1974 - 11/01/1974; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, 11/01/1974 - 01/01/1975

Jacob Lawrence - An Overview: Paintings 1936-1994, Midtown Payson Galleries, New York, 01/12/1995 - 02/25/1995

32Q: 1320 Social Realism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 12/10/2019; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/01/2050

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, Peabody Essex Museum, 01/18/2020 - 08/09/2020; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 08/29/2020 - 11/01/2020; Birmingham Museum of Art, 11/20/2020 - 02/07/2021

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