Met Jacob Lawrence

Sheer chance and an observant art enthusiastic are the heroes of the day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where a long-lost painting has been restored to its collection.

The collection, titled Struggle: From the History of the American People, is really a single work in 60 pieces by American painter Jacob Lawrence. He created it between 1954 and 1956, in the middle of the early Cold War and the peak of McCarthy’s Red Scare, intersecting with Brown v. Board of Education and the ramp-up to the Civil Rights movement. Lawrence, considered an iconic American modernist who painted in a dramatic cubist style, painted his intersection with all of these things as a black man, a veteran, a mental patient, and an artist.

Struggle has been missing five of its sixty panels for years, since before it was acquired by the Met. No one knew what had happened to them, but they weren’t the first of Lawrence’s paintings to go missing. But while the collection was on display in the American Wing there this summer, a visitor touring the museum thought the works looked familiar. She thought her neighbor had something that looked like that, but didn’t see an original of the one he had anywhere.

What was hanging on the neighbor’s wall turned out to be the missing Panel 16. Her father had bought it as a fundraising auction for a grade school twenty years before.

“The fact that a museum visitor found this, took the initiative to raise this with a friend, a neighbor, and they were excited enough to really want to bring it together,” said Met Museum American Wing curator Sylvia Yount.

The missing panel, which has not yet been appraised, will remain the property of the neighbor, but they have agreed to lend the artwork to the collection, which will be on display in various museums through December 2021. Other artworks by Lawrence have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A collection belonging to the White House, for instance, was worth approximately $2.2 million when former First Lady Laura Bush purchased it.

Source: CBS New York

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