Gouache and tempera on heavy ivory wove paper
Dimensions: Sheet: 22 1/8 x 29 3/4 in. (56.2 x 75.6 cm)
Gift of Isabel and William Berley, Classes of 1947 and 1945
Object Number: 99.078.047
Lawrence was brought up in a settlement house in Harlem in the era of the Harlem Renaissance, a time of focused social awareness and a burgeoning black consciousness, which nurtured the young Lawrence and opened his eyes to the life around him. He began taking art classes early and during the Depression he worked for the Works Progress Administration.
It was this background that would inform Lawrence’s work for decades to come. His Migration series, supported by grants from the Rosenwald Foundation, brought the twenty-four-year-old immediate success and national attention. He continued to work in series, never shying away from powerful or emotional subjects; but as he progressed, some of the gritty anger was softened by humor at the overall human condition.
In The Typists this is clearly apparent as three women flail away at their machines, papers askew, files flung open. Even in the 1960s, secretarial jobs would have been one of the few open to women, and particularly black women. Lawrence imbues the scene with a sense of frenetic activity lashed by bright spots of color, the figures comedic in their attempt to complete what appears to be an endless task— bringing order to the madness. ("FIGURE/STUDY: Drawings from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art," text by Nancy E. Green and presented at Carlton Hobbs, LLC January 25-February 2, 2019)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.