Two exhibitions at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill are built around two artists from similar backgrounds whose works and careers notably diverged. Yet now in death, they both occupy an important place in the history of African-American art.
Lawrence (1917-2000) became famous at a young age for his figurative paintings about the lives of significant African-Americans.
This exhibit, "Jacob Lawrence and the Legend of John Brown," includes 22 silkscreen prints depicting the 19th-century abolitionist. Originally gouache paintings, they had become so fragile that in 1977 Lawrence was commissioned to re-create them as prints.
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When published, the 22 prints were accompanied by a commissioned poem by Robert Hayden.
Hines (1913-1993) did not achieve Lawrence's fame. Yet he was a prolific artist who worked as an art conservator at the Museum of Modern Art and other museums, and as Georgia O'Keefe's personal conservator.
"Color Balance: Paintings by Felrath Hines" comprises 14 paintings and four drawings that represent the time from the 1960s to his death. Hines' widow recently gave the works to the Ackland, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and N.C. Central University Art Museum.
This exhibit premieres these works before they travel to the other museums next year. It includes the last piece he completed before he died.
Hines attended the School of the Arts Institute at Chicago while working as a dining car waiter on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad. Later, he moved to New York and hung out with Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin and jazz musician Billy Strayhorn (who was the first to buy one of Hines' paintings).