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Artist Name:

Jacob Lawrence

Nationality & Life Dates:

American, 1917 – 2000






Tempera on panel


18 1/4 x 24 1/2 inches

Credit Line:

Purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and Edith G. & Philip A. Rhodes

Accession Number:



© 2011 Jacob and Gwen Knight Lawrence Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Currently Not on View
Marionettes is an unusual subject for Jacob Lawrence, an artist who typically took his themes from African American history and the struggle for civil rights in America. Part of a group of works completed in 1952, this painting focuses on the topic of performance and theatrical illusion—a subject in which role-playing and the manipulation of individuals by others are essential underlying themes. One of Lawrence’s more abstract works, Marionettes reflects the influence of Cubism’s flat angularity as well as the geometric simplifications of African art, as seen in the mask-like faces of the puppets.

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