As a social realist who favored abstract modes of expression, Jacob Lawrence depicted the African American experience and the world around him with vivacity and energy. His images reflect his keen observation of the sights and sounds of Harlem. He used simplified forms, pattern, repetition, and bold color to express the mood and meaning of each scene. In On the Way Lawrence captures African Americans as they move through the streets with his usual attention to detail and, at the same time, telling abstract forms. At first glance it is difficult to determine what is happening in this scene. The flat shapes and vibrant swatches of color create a brilliant overall design. The depth of the image is skewed by the placement of bold colors in the background and more subdued colors in the foreground. Created after the height of the Civil Rights movement, Lawrence shows men and women moving quickly through the streets, on their way to their various destinations. Their movement is representative of the African American community on its way to a better future.
-Susan Bonta, Class of 2018