Jacob Lawrence, Bar and Grill, 1941, gouache on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design, 2010.52
African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Bar and Grill shows the interior of a café that is divided by a floor-to-ceiling wall that separates the commercial space into two realms—one occupied by whites, the other by blacks. Apart from obvious segregation by race, the image also reveals status. White customers drink in comfort, cooled by a ceiling fan above. The number of figures occupying each side of the room reflected the white-black ratio of city residents.
Living in a southern city where legislation required that he ride in the back of city buses and live in a racially segregated neighborhood, Lawrence discovered the daily reality of Jim Crow segregation. This experience emerged in Bar and Grill and other paintings that dealt with what he called "the life of Negroes in New Orleans."
Several of Lawrence's New Orleans paintings were featured along with a group of panels from the Migration series in a groundbreaking exhibition, Negro Art in America, which opened at Edith Gregor Halpert's Downtown Gallery in New York City on December 8, 1941, the day the United States declared war on Germany and Japan. The show was a huge success for Lawrence, who was celebrated by black and white critics alike. Halpert continued to push Lawrence's work, and two years later, when Lawrence was drafted to serve as a steward in the Coast Guard, she persuaded his commanding officers to provide studio space so he could continue to paint.
Bar and Grill
- On View
- Not on view.
16 3/4 x 22 3/4 in. (42.5 x 57.8 cm)
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design
- Mediums Description
- gouache on paper
- Recreation – leisure – eating and drinking
- Figure group
- Architecture Interior – commercial – tavern
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI