The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture

Exhibition Website

Jan 7 2017 - Apr 30 2017

Phillips Collection

Washington, DC

This special exhibition features 15 rarely seen silkscreen prints created by American artist Jacob Lawrence between 1986 and 1997. The series portrays the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1742-1803), the former slave turned revolutionary leader who led the fight for the liberation of Haiti during the French revolution. Lawrence had explored the same subject more than 50 years earlier in a series of paintings of the same title (now in the Amistad Research Center, New Orleans). The celebrated paintings, which were singled out in a room of their own in a group exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1939, laid the groundwork for Lawrence’s lifelong interest in the human quest for freedom and social justice.

While he based these later prints on the earlier 11 x 19-inch paintings, Lawrence distilled the story to 15 works from the original 41 panels and significantly expanded their scale. Lawrence worked closely with master printmaker Lou Stovall to translate the specific colors and fluid movement of the original tempera paint to each composition created from hand-cut stencils. In highlighting the story of the struggles of the Haitian people at both an early and late moment in his career, Lawrence brought to light the powerful legacy of L’Ouverture as an inspiring example for others seeking freedom around the world.

Exhibition overview from museum website


Whether you go or not, Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence is an exceptional biography which tells the story of one of our finest living painters -- from his family's experience in the great migration North, to his growing up in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance, to his rise as one of the most renowned painters of African American life. 

The paintings of Jacob Lawrence tell stories ... stories of enslavement and freedom, of human migration and renaissance, of struggle and of triumph. A collection of these stunning paintings provides the backdrop for this book.  With more twenty-five full-color reproductions and an insightful glossary, not only is this an easy-to-read, engaging biography, it's also an excellent starting point for discussions about American history. 



  • Works on Paper
  • 20th Century
  • History
  • Jacob Lawrence

Exhibition Venues & Dates