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Builders #1

Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917–2000
Watercolor, gouache, and graphite
Made in
Seattle, Washington, United States, North and Central America
Seattle, Washington, United States, North and Central America
Drawings & watercolors
Current Location
Not on view
22 7/16 x 30 3/4 in. (57 x 78.1 cm)
Credit Line
Eliza McMillan Trust
© 2020 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Object Number
A carpenter sits at a workbench surrounded by a fantastic array of tools and fasteners. The mountains behind him mirror his strength. The moment portrayed here, however, is not an act of construction but of preparation, as the builder sits sharpening a chisel. Wood as a building material is almost completely absent. He is alone and reflective, weighing the projects ahead. Jacob Lawrence is known for his bold use of flat planes of color, a technique he first developed as a member of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s. In this work, he softened his vigorous application of gouache, an opaque water-based paint, with transparent watercolor. Lawrence's "Builders #1" presents a window within a window and a hopeful allegory of African American life. This is the first expression of a theme that Lawrence would return to for the rest of his career. His builders serve as metaphorical figures, simultaneously evoking artistic creation and social struggle. Like the people who won the hard-fought battles of the civil rights movement, the craftsman stands for the potential of all African Americans.
- 1972
Terry Dintenfass, Inc. New York, NY, USA

1972 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Terry Dintenfass, Inc [1]

[1] Invoice dated July 31, 1972 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, July 20, 1972.
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