The Strength And The Struggle Essay

640 words - 3 pages

Jacob Lawrence made African American families the subject of some of his art, but used those subjects to convey complex messages about family and society. “The Builders” shows a confident, well-dressed family, while “This is a Family Living in Harlem” portrays a family living in austerity and melancholy. While both paintings feature families, the paintings evoke moods that are starkly different.
While “The Builders” does feature construction workers, the center of the painting is a family on a walk together. The workers and the lumber they are using serve to frame the family and make them the focal point of the work. The family is well-dressed; the father wears a suit and hat, the mother a dress and hat, and the children are similarly dressed. At first glance, one might assume they’re headed to church; however, the fact that construction workers labor behind them excludes church, since they would not be working on a Sunday. Therefore, it can be inferred that this family is prosperous, and this is simply how they dress. The painting is full of imagery that supports this idea of prosperity. The family moves together, all of them putting their right foot forward, while the builders are all building upward. The message of progress is clear – all the subjects in the painting are moving up and moving forward. The bright colors and absence of shadow support a vision of hope and success. A single white worker in the painting pauses in his work to turn and regard the family, as if to note their new and emerging status in the world. Indeed, the “builders” in the painting are actually the family, as they move forward to build a brighter future for their children and African Americans in general.
In contrast, “This is a Family Living in Harlem” paints a bleaker picture. While the family in “Builders” strides forth, straight-backed and confident, the family in...

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