War Series: The Letter, 1946
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Jacob Lawrence’s earliest multipanel, narrative sequences depicted epic stories of specific events in African American history. In the War Series, he abandoned that approach, unifying his cycle of fourteen panels around a single, universal theme: the devastating effects of war. “In approaching this subject, I tried to capture the essence of war. To do this I attempted to portray the feeling and emotions that are felt by the individual, both fighter and civilian.” The stark simplicity of Lawrence’s panel―from the figure’s pose to the dramatic lighting and somber color―convey the mood and emotional impact of someone receiving a wartime letter.