Jacob Lawrence has long been one of my favorite painters. I love his color. His jagged, geometric, crowded, bustling compositions. His social commentary.
The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg embarks on a year-long loan sharing collaboration with Art Bridges to present five paintings by celebrated American artists from the Art Bridges Collection. The artists represented are Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Wilfred Lewis, Lee Krasner, and Marsden Hartley. Each advanced narratives about race, gender, and regional identity through their depictions of American life in the twentieth century.
Art Bridges is a non-profit arts foundation that creates and supports programs that expand access to American art around the country. It partners with art institutions on projects that engage communities via traveling exhibitions, long-term loan sharing collaborations, among additional initiatives. In addition to the loans, the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is also working with Art Bridges to create exciting programs, such as film screenings, lectures, and virtual performances, centered around the five paintings.
These five loans will amplify and create new connections among the existing works in the galleries, as well as fill gaps in the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg’s presentation of twentieth century American art. The works of art on view from the Art Bridges Collection include:
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), In the Heart of the Black Belt, 1947
Lawrence is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and one of the first nationally recognized Black artists. He painted in a distinctive style of abstracted realism, characterized by flattened forms and bold colors. This painting belongs to a series exploring Black southern life commissioned as illustrations for Fortune magazine. It shows farm workers—almost certainly impoverished sharecroppers—waiting to be driven to fields.
Lee Krasner (1908-1984), Re-Echo, 1957
Krasner was a female Abstract Expressionist and served as a driving force for American women in art during the mid-century. Re-Echo is part of Krasner’s 17-painting “Earth Green” series, which reflects the artistic transformation Krasner experienced after the sudden death of her husband, Jackson Pollock, in 1956. Re-Echo is one of the earliest paintings in the series, thought by many to be her most accomplished body of work.
Katherine Pill, MFA’s Curator of Contemporary Art, describes Krasner’s piece as “a stunning, pivotal work that epitomizes emotive gesture and form” and one that serves as a reminder that “the male-dominated narrative of Abstract Expressionism still crucially needs to be expanded.”
The MFA, St. Petersburg is the first museum to have both Lee Krasner’s Re-Echo (1957) and Jacob Lawrence’s In the Heart of the Black Belt (1947) on view from the Art Bridges Collection.
The artworks by Lee Krasner, Jacob Lawrence, Lee Smith, and Lewis are on display at the MFA through February 2022. Hartley’s painting will be on view from June 2021 to August 2022. The five paintings can be seen in the MFA’s Modern and Post-War galleries.
The MFA has prints by Lee Krasner, Jacob Lawrence, Lee-Smith and Lewis in its own collection, however due to those pieces being works on paper, they are not on permanent display because of their light sensitivity. One of the great strengths of the MFA’s holdings is its collection of modern American paintings from 1920-1960.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
The MFA St. Petersburg is the city’s first art museum, and houses the largest encyclopedic art collection in Florida. The collection includes works of art from ancient times to the present day and from around the world, including ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, Native American, European, American, and contemporary art. The photography collection is one of the largest and finest in the Southeast.