Monday, January 18, 2010

With the awful circumstances in Haiti, I woke up thinking about Jacob Lawrence's chronicling of the slave revolt that led to freedom from the French in 1804, the only successful slave uprising in the Western Hemisphere. Is it possible that it's been two hundred years since a big, positive change happened there?

The series of 15 paintings (called Toussaint L'Ouverture after the name of the revolt's leader) was created in 1937-38 when Lawrence was just 21 years old. Reading about him on, I came across a remark that his colors are bold but silent. At first I thought, that doesn't make much sense, but the more I think about it there's some truth to that. The colors are strong, but not shrill. They settle down and work harmoniously, don't they? How did he manage that? Here are three, all from this link.

Above is Strategy. This next one is The March.

In Deception, L'Ouverture has been tricked and captured in 1802. He spent a year in prison, and died there, but Haiti won its independence the following year. Apparently they were forced to pay reparations so crushing that the country has never been able to climb out of debt.


  1. This is perfect - and so timely! Thank you.

  2. I've just been reading a history of the the slave revolt, so Haiti was very much on my mind when the earthquake struck. Thanks for sharing this work. I can see what you mean about the colors.

  3. Maybe the color harmony comes from the fact that he always seems to have a neutral value or two - a gray or brown - to temper the boldness. Thanks for visiting.