A Finding Aid to the Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Papers, 1816, 1914-2008, bulk 1973-2001, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.lawrjaco
Creators:
Knight, Gwendolyn
Lawrence, Jacob, 1917-2000
Dates:
1816
1914-2008
bulk 1973-2001
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
25.35 Linear feet
0.001 Gigabytes
Repository:
The papers of African American painter and educator Jacob Lawrence and his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight measure 25.35 linear feet and 0.001 GB date from 1914 to 2008, with one item from 1816 and the bulk of the material dating from 1973 to 2001. The collection includes biographical material; correspondence including condolence letters to Gwendolyn Knight after Jacob Lawrence's death; writings by Jacob Lawrence and others; printed and digital material; photographs; personal business records; artwork; records from the Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonné Project; materials related to the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation; professional files; and material related to awards and honors received by Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of African American painter and educator Jacob Lawrence and his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight measure 25.35 linear feet and 0.001 GB and date from 1914 to 2008, with one item from 1816 and the bulk of the material dating from 1973 to 2001. The collection includes biographical material; correspondence including condolence letters to Gwendolyn Knight after Jacob Lawrence's death; writings by Jacob Lawrence and others; printed and digital material; photographs; personal business records; artwork; records from the Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonné Project; materials related to the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation; professional files; and material related to awards and honors received by Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight.
Biographical material includes appointment and address books; education and personal identification certificates and documents; awards, certificates, curriculum vitae, and chronologies; biographical material related to other individuals, including identification documents and memorial programs; and transcripts of interviews with Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight.
The correspondence series includes extensive personal and professional correspondence with family, friends, artists, admirers (including students in a number of elementary and middle schools), university students, government agencies, art schools, galleries, museums, publishing houses, and others. Included in this series are condolence letters received by Gwendolyn Knight after Jacob Lawrence's death in 2000.
Writings include published and unpublished writings by and about Jacob Lawrence, as well as writings by others. These writings include speeches, notes, essays, articles, lists, and short stories. Also included is a visitor comment book from the Los Angeles County Museum exhibition of Jacob Lawrence's Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass series.
Printed material includes books; brochures; business cards; clippings; exhibition and event announcements, invitations, catalogs, and programs; magazines; newsletters; posters; post cards; and press releases. Books in this collection may include illustrations by Jacob Lawrence or have personal inscriptions from the author to Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight.
Photographs include photographs of Jacob Lawrence artwork, photographs and reproductions of Gwendolyn Knight artwork, and photographs of Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, and other individuals. Also included in this series are photographs and reproductions of work by others.
Personal business records include a ledger; consignment, financial, and shipping records related to the Terry Dintenfass Gallery; contracts and agreements; and estate documents.
Artwork includes sketches by Jacob Lawrence, a blank sketchbook inscribed by Jacob Lawrence to Gwendolyn Knight, and artwork by other artists.
Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonné Project Records include materials generated by the Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonné Project, a non-profit created with the goal of producing a catalogue raisonné (and later, a digital archive) of Jacob Lawrence's work. These records include address books and phone logs; copies of Jacob Lawrence's CV; founding documents, bylaws, and meeting minutes; correspondence; writings, including draft pages of the catalogue raisonné; business records, including employment files, contracts, invoices, insurance, and tax information; printed and digital material; and photographs and artwork.
The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation and Related Material series includes founding documents and foundation bylaws, correspondence, financial documents, reports, and proposals. Found within this series are materials related to the Lawrence Center for the Visual Arts, a subsidiary foundation of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation.
Professional files include material related to projects and exhibitions, teaching files and inclusion in curricula, files regarding possible fake Jacob Lawrence works, and gallery files.
The honors series is divided into two subseries: awards and certificates, and government honors. Awards and certificates includes honorary degrees, arts prizes, and any other honors awarded to Jacob Lawrence or Gwendolyn Knight. Government honors include resolutions, proclamations, and keys to cities. Also included in this series are correspondence related to awards and honorary degrees, commencement programs, plaques, and medals.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged in 11 series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1914-2005 (Boxes 1, 11, 26, OV 10; 0.5 linear feet)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1943, 1952-2005 (Boxes 1-5, 12-14, 26; 7.7 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Writings, 1954-1959, 1973-2005, undated (Boxes 5-6, 14-15; 0.5 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Printed Material, 1816, 1926, 1937, 1945-2008 (Boxes 6-9, 15-17, 26, OV 30, OV 31; 6.8 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Photographs, circa 1970-1997, undated (Boxes 9, 17, OV 10; 0.4 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1962-2005 (Boxes 9, 17; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Artwork, 1984, 1990-1994, undated (Boxes 9, 18, 26; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 8: Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonne Project Records, 1982-2002 (Boxes 18-23, Box 26; 5.1 linear feet, ER01; 0.001 GB)
  • Series 9: Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation and Related Material, 1997-2005 (Box 23; 0.6 linear feet)
  • Series 10: Professional Files, 1964-2004 (Boxes 23-24; 1.2 linear feet)
  • Series 11: Honors, 1948, 1966-2005 (Boxes 24-25, 27-29, OV 30; 2.3 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Modernist painter and educator Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) was born in 1917 as Jacob Armstead Lawrence in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He began his art studies at the Utopia Children's Center in New York City's Harlem district where he studied under the painter Charles Alston. Lawrence dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen to continue his art instruction with Alston, this time at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he met several artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance including the sculptor Augusta Savage.
Gwendolyn Knight (1913-2005) was born in Barbados and moved to New York City with her adoptive parents when she was seven. She attended New York's Wadleigh High School and later Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she studied fine arts with Lois Mailou Jones and James Porter. Forced to leave her studies at Howard because of the Depression, Knight returned to Harlem and continued her artistic pursuits in Augusta Savage's workshop. In 1935, Knight joined the Harlem Mural Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) working under Selma Day and Charles Alston. Lawrence and Knight met in Savage's workshop and married in the summer of 1941.
During the Depression, Lawrence also joined the WPA Federal Arts Project in Harlem. Finding WPA murals overwhelming, Lawrence concentrated on traditional painting instead. He produced his first major works in the late 1930s, most notably the Toussaint L'Ouverture series, images that document the life of the revolutionary hero and Haiti's struggle for independence. Other significant works include visual narratives of the lives of abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. In 1940, Lawrence received the prestigious Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, which made it possible for him to purchase his first art studio on 125th Street in the heart of Harlem. He soon portrayed Harlem street life in paintings that became commentaries on the role of African Americans in United States society with highly developed themes of resistance and social opposition. That same year, Lawrence began his most celebrated series, The Migration of the American Negro, multiple tempera panels depicting the exodus of African American sharecroppers in the south to northern industrial cities in search of better employment and social opportunities. Edith Halpert exhibited the works in their entirety at her Downtown Gallery in 1941, establishing Lawrence as the first African American artist to exhibit in a top New York gallery. The following year, New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC each bought half of the sixty panels in the series, helping to further Lawrence's career within the larger world of American art.
In the summer of 1946, the artist Joseph Albers invited Lawrence to teach at North Carolina's Black Mountain College. It was the first in a series of teaching positions in prestigious art schools including Pratt Institute (1956-1971), Brandeis University (1965), The New School (1966), the Art Students League (1967), and others. During the 1950s and 1960s, Lawrence's work continued to focus on racism and political activism but in the late 1960s shifted to themes of racial harmony.
Both Lawrence and Knight continued independent careers in art. Knight pursued her art studies at the New School in New York and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In the mid-1960s, she collaborated with other female artists to form the Studio Gallery in New York City. Knight's main body of work consists of portraits and still-lifes that incorporate expressions of African sculpture, Impressionism, dance, and theater. Focusing on gesture, her art is described as light and airy with a minimum of lines allowing empty space to define the work. In 1970, Lawrence traveled to Seattle to teach as a visiting artist at the University of Washington. He was hired on a permanent basis the following year and remained on staff until his retirement in 1986.
Jacob Lawrence died June 9, 2000, in Seattle, Washington at the age of 83. Gwendolyn Knight continued to paint and exhibit her work around the country until her death on February 18, 2005 in Seattle, Washington at the age of 92.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
A portion of the Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight papers (9.1 linear feet, boxes 1-9, OV 10) were digitized in 2007 by the Archives of American Art and total 9,843 images.
Materials which have not been scanned include books, printed material, photographs of artwork, and additional material received in 2012.
Processing Information
Multiple accessions, including material previously microfilmed on reel 3042, were merged, processed, and a finding aid prepared by Rosa Fernandez, Jetta Sumulski, and Emma Lincoln between 2003 and 2005. It was prepared for digitization by Erin Kinhart and digitized in 2007 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional papers were donated in 2012 and processed to a minimal level by Rayna Andrews, assisted by Ashley Boykins, in 2018 with funding provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. The addition has not been physically merged with the material previously digitized, however, the entire collection is described in this finding aid. Born-digital material was processed by Kirsi Ritosalmi-Kisner in 2019 with funding provided by Smithsonian Collection Care and Preservation Fund.
Author
Rosa Fernandez and Rayna Andrews
Sponsor
Funding for the 2008 processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Funding for the 2018 processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
Provenance
The Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in five accretions between 1979 and 1997. Additional papers were donated in 2012 by the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation via Barbara Earl Thomas, representative.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight papers, 1816, 1914-2008, bulk 1973-2001. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Material
Also found at the Archives of American Art are an oral history interview with Jacob Lawrence conducted by Carroll Greene (1968 October 26), interviews conducted by Avis Berman (1982 July 20-August 4), and an oral history interview with Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight conducted by Paul Karlstrom (1998 November 18). The Archives of American Art also holds a collection of Jacob Lawrence papers, available on microfilm only, reels D286 and 4571-4573. Originals reside at Syracuse University Library, Special Collections.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
African American artists -- Washington (State) -- Seattle Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Washington (State) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American artists -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dintenfass, Terry, 1920- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eichenberg, Fritz, 1901-1990 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Evergood, Philip, 1901-1973 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Halpert, Edith Gregor, 1900-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bocour, Leonard, 1910-1993 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/