Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
African American World
Search:
Find what you need on PBS and NPR
Timeline Reference Room Kids Classroom Community Resources
Channels
history
arts & culture
race & society
profiles
Arts & Culture: Art Focus
Art FocusBrain TeaserSound Off!Free Stuff

Learn more about Norman Lewis and his abstract impressionist paintings.




The Legacy


Norman Lewis, born in 1909 in New York, was the first major African American abstract expressionist. Lewis, like fellow artist, Jacob Lawrence attended the art workshops in Harlem. At the art centers Lewis studied African art and was introduced to Howard University professor, Alain Locke's ideas about art, which Locke believed, should derive from African themes and aesthetics. However Lewis saw limitations in the New Negro ideals and questioned its effectiveness in expressing his own identity and interests of the African American community. Lewis later moved from abstract figuration to modernism, as exemplified by artists Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso. His paintings from this time are devoid of realistic imagery and focused more on conceptual expression, often referring to African American settings and culture. Lewis, always active in the art community, in the 1960s was a founding member of the Spiral Group, a group of African American artists who sought to contribute through their art to the civil rights movement.

Related Artists:
Jacob Lawrence


Yellow Hat (1936)
Click to enlarge





Period & Artists
Pre-Civil War
Exploring Freedom
The Harlem Renaissance
The Legacy
Jacob Lawrence
Norman Lewis
Social Activism
Modern Identities
feedback privacy policy credits site map pledge printer friendly format