The Shoemaker

Artist: Jacob Lawrence (American, Atlantic City, New Jersey 1917–2000 Seattle, Washington)

Date: 1945

Medium: Watercolor and gouache on paper

Dimensions: 22 3/4 x 31 in. (57.8 x 78.7 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: George A. Hearn Fund, 1946

Accession Number: 46.73.2

Rights and Reproduction: © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


The Shoemaker was among the first works Lawrence painted after returning from military service in World War II in early December 1945. Resuming one of his most enduring themes, these pictures from late 1945-46 focus on workers in the Harlem and show the range of occupations open to African Americans at the time, from teachers and office assistants to barbers, seamstresses, and steelworkers. Although Lawrence's art was never overtly political, his subjects highlighted social issues, often with pathos and humor. Here, he contrasts the enormous body of the cobbler with his cramped quarters and the delicate shoes and tacks that occupy his attention.