The Life of John Brown, No. 11 | Artopia

Jacob Lawrence

A Closer Look

Sometimes artists tell stories without words, asJacob Lawrence has done in The Life of John Brown, No. 11 – John Brown Took to Guerrilla Warfare. This painting is part of a series called The Life of John Brown. Lawrence was concerned with civil rights and used his artwork to make political and social statements. Think of a familiar story and make several drawings to illustrate it. It could be about an adventure you have experienced, or an important social issue.

About the Painting

Jacob Lawrence created several series of paintings about abolitionists. The Life of John Brown No. 11– John Brown Took to Guerrilla Warfare shows Brown and some of his antislavery fighters in 1856, riding to Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas, where they killed five proslavery settlers. In 1859 John Brown led a raid on the United States armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. The attack failed and Brown was hanged for treason. 

About the Artist

As a boy Jacob Lawrence worked as a delivery boy to help support his family, whose only other income came from his mother’s job as a maid. Lawrence received a scholarship to go to art school. The first major exhibition of his paintings, when he was twenty-four, was a great success. Jacob Lawrence was the first African American artist to receive mainstream recognition throughout his life in the United States.


Write About It

  • Make a list of what you see.
  • How did the artist use the elements and principles of design?
  • What do you think the painting means? How does it make you feel?
  • Select two paintings to compare & contrast.