The Dark Side of the Renaissance


panel 53

“Panel 53” by Jacob Lawrence

Although using a darker tone than the typical uplifting and free tone of the time period, “Panel 53” of Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series” exemplifies very well the Harlem Renaissance and some of the modernist themes and feelings that were associated with it. First, as the Harlem Renaissance had a large artistic basis in modernism, it is important to understand the biggest modernist theme being portrayed in the painting: alienation. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of joy and community, however, what Jacob Lawrence wants to portray in this painting is the small feelings that were not seen in other works of art and literature. He is showing the after-effects of the Renaissance and how all good things must come to an end. After the economic boom in the 1920s, there were a large amount of people who profited very heavily, including some black people. The use of this factual information in the painting is not just to point out that this did occur, but to show that after the boom and after the Renaissance with all of its joy and riches, reality, including isolation and depression, had to set in sooner or later. Lawrence portrays the side of the Renaissance that nobody wanted to mention, about how when the 1920s boom turned into the Great Depression, all of the fancy clothes, the fantastic worlds people built, and the lavish lifestyles they led, all faded away, leaving sour emotions people would hide behind their top hats, as seen in the painting. Lawrence very interestingly uses isolation to make the point not about the Renaissance but about the effect that it left on people and how they felt once they had very little left to find joy in.


This entry was posted in English III, Harlem Renaissance, Modernism. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s