Posts Tagged 'screen prints'

Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture

On December 6, Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture opened at the DMA (on view through May 23, 2010).  This exhibition of fifteen silkscreen prints illustrates scenes from the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, a man who played an important role in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804).  Born a slave, Toussaint learned to read and write and worked his way up through the ranks to become commander in chief of the revolutionary army.   The prints in the exhibition chronicle not only Toussaint’s rise to power, but also the events that led to Haiti becoming the first free black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

Jacob Lawrence, General Toussaint L'Ouverture, 1987

Jacob Lawrence began creating this series of prints in 1986, but they were based on a series of paintings that he completed in 1938 when he was just 21 years old.  It’s fascinating to me that an artist living and working in the 20th century would be interested in a little-known leader of a revolution that happened in the early 19th century.  There is a great quote from Jacob Lawrence that explains why Toussaint was such an important figure to him:

 “I’ve always been interested in history, but they never taught Negro history in public schools…I don’t see how a history of the United States can be written honestly without including the Negro.  I didn’t do it just as a historical thing, but because I believe these things tie up with the Negro today.  We don’t have a physical slavery, but an economic slavery.  If these people, who were so much worse off than the people today, could conquer their slavery, we certainly can do the same thing.” (quoted in Jacob Lawrence: The Complete Prints, 1963-2000: a catalog raisonné, edited by Peter T. Nesbitt, p. 16.)

Jacob Lawrence, The Opener, 1997

We are offering a variety of programs for students and teachers focusing on this exhibition, including a Teacher Workshop on February 6, 2010.  We are also offering docent-guided tours of the exhibition; because it is a small focus exhibition, docents will be using three themes–narrative and biography, commemoration, and leaders–to make connections between the screen prints in the exhibition and works of art in our African and American galleries.  I hope that you’ll join us to explore The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture!

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator


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