The Wedding

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Jacob Lawrence
American, 1917-2000

The Wedding, 1948

Egg tempera on hardboard
50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in.)
78.7 x 88.9 cm (31 x 35 in.)
Restricted gift of Mary P. Hines in memory of her mother, Frances W. Pick, 1993.258

© 2014 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jacob Lawrence once wrote, “For me, the most important function of art is observation.” He was inspired by and created works based on his own experiences of everyday life in Harlem and the history of African Americans in the United States. In The Wedding, Lawrence simultaneously depicted the solemnity and the joy of the marriage ceremony. Although the preacher’s face is only partially defined, he appears to look down with great seriousness at the couple as they contemplate their vows. The large, colorful urns overflowing with brilliant flowers signify the happiness of the scene and may also represent the future prosperity of this union.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, N.Y., The Downtown Gallery, The Artists Speaks in Paint, Stone, and Words, April 5-23, 1949.

Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Institute, Painting in the United States, 1949, October 13-December 11, 1949, no. 51.

New York and other cities, American Federation of Arts, Jacob Lawrence Retrospective, November 1960-1962, no. 33.

The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. National Conference on the Arts Honors Ten African-American Artists, March 14-April 16, 1980.

Seattle Art Museum, Jacob Lawrence, American Painter, July 10-September 7, 1986; the Oakland Museum, Calif., September 26- November 30, 1986; Atlanta, Ga., High Museum of Art, December 16, 1986-March 1, 1987; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, April 3-June 1, 1987; Dallas Museum of Art, July 19-September 6, 1987; The Brooklyn Museum, N.Y., October 1-December 1, 1987.

Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, Fairfield University, Conn., Human Conditions: American 20th Century Paintings & Drawings, February 7-March 7, 1992.

Art Institute of Chicago, Spiritual Expressions: Art for Private Contemplation and Public Celebration, November 22, 1995-March 17, 1996.

Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence, May 27-August 19, 2001; traveled to New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, November 8, 2001-February 3, 2002; The Detroit Institute of Art, February 24-May 19, 2002; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 16-September 8, 2002; Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, October 5, 2002-January 5, 2003.

Salem, Peabody Essex Museum, Wedded Bliss, the Marriage of Art and Ceremony, April 36-September 14, 2008.

Publication History

The Artists Speaks in Paint, Stone, and Words, exh. cat. (New York: The Downtown Gallery,1949), no. 10.

“Art Questions and Answers,” Time 53 (April 11, 1949), p. 57, ill.

Margaret Breuning, “Carnegie Presents Last and Best Alt American Annual,” Art Digest 24, 2 (October 15, 1949), pp. 7-9.

Aline B. Saarinen, Jacob Lawrence, exh. cat. (New York, American Federation of Arts, 1960) no. 33.

Ellen Harkins Wheat, Jacob Lawrence, American Painter, (Seattle: University of Washington Press/Seattle Art Museum, 1986), p. 75, pl. 46.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 96, ill.

Peter T. Nesbett and Michelle DuBois, eds. Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence, (Seattle: University of Washington Press/Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, 2000), ill, p. 323.

Daniel Schulman, “The Wedding,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 29, 2 (2003), pp. 76-77 (color ills.).

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 152.

Ownership History

The Downtown Gallery, New York. Mrs. Franklin Forsythe, Ann Arbor, Mich. by 1960; by descent to Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Forsythe, Laguna Beach, Calif. Terry Dintenfass Gallery, New York, by 1980. Dr. Daniel J. Whitner, Atlanta, Ga. Christie, Manson & Woods, New York, lot 346, September 29, 1989; Mr. and Mrs. John W. Payson, Hobe Sound, Fla.; Midtown Payson Galleries, New York; sold to the Art Institute, 1993.