Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)

The Fur Coat

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)
The Fur Coat
signed and dated 'Jacob Lawrence/48' (lower right)
tempera and pencil on board
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1948.
The artist.
Private collection, New York, 1948.
By descent to the present owner.
P.T. Nesbett, M. DuBois, Jacob Lawrence: Paintings, Drawings and Murals (1935-1999), A Catalogue Raisonné, Seattle, Washington, 2000, p. 111.
P. Hills, Painting Harlem Modern: The Art of Jacob Lawrence, 2010, Berkeley, California, pp. 194-95, 339, fig. 146, illustrated.

Please note that this lot is accompanied by a letter from Peter T. Nesbett, co-author of Jacob Lawrence: Paintings, Drawings, and Murals (1935-1999), a Catalogue Raisonné.
New York, DC Moore Gallery, Jacob Lawrence Paintings, Drawings & Prints from 1937-1998, December 12, 2001-January 26, 2002.
New York, DC Moore Gallery, Jacob Lawrence Moving Forward: Paintings, 1936-1999, February 13-March 22, 2008, pp. 11, 32, 76, illustrated.
Sale room notice
The present work has been requested for a loan exhibition at the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which owns the related Jacob Lawrence painting Birth.

Lot Essay

By 1948 when The Fur Coat was painted, Jacob Lawrence had already earned a national reputation due to his renowned Migration series. Twenty-six of the panels from this series were published in the November 1941 issue of Fortune magazine, and the whole series went on a fourteen-city tour from 1942-44 sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the fall of 1942, Lawrence returned to Harlem a success after spending about ten months in the South, and he began painting street scenes and interior views of his New York neighborhood. In his works from the late 1940s, such as The Fur Coat, Lawrence captured all variants of city living, confirming for Harlem residents that they were not invisible in the world and portraying them as people filled with grit, determination and endurance.

The Fur Coat is one of Lawrence’s most poignant scenes of an extended African-American family in an urban interior setting. The work was one of two paintings commissioned by Seventeen magazine in 1948; the other was titled Birth. In The Fur Coat, visitors have come to mourn the loss of a baby and comfort the grieving mother, who is surrounded by other children--perhaps her own or those of the visitor sitting in the chair at the bedside. Visible at the end of the corridor in this railroad apartment is a tall light-haired and fair-skinned woman in a fur coat tying her headscarf and preparing to leave. While the identity of the tall figure in the fur coat remains unknown, Patricia Hills and Michelle du Bois have suggested that Lawrence's wife, fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight, may have served as a model. (P. Hills, Painting Harlem Modern: The Art of Jacob Lawrence, Berkeley, California, 2010, p. 314n82) Clearly a visitor to this domestic scene of anguish, the presence of the titular woman in the fur coat serves to heighten the powerful depiction of the foreground group's enduring family spirit.

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