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The Migration Series, Panel no. 9: They left because the boll weevil had ravaged the cotton crop.

Jacob Lawrence ( between 1940 and 1941 )

Five cotton plants with boll weevills eating them.
  • Period Twentieth-Century
  • Materials Casein tempera on hardboard
  • Object Number 1156
  • Dimensions 18 x 12 in.; 45.72 x 30.48 cm.
  • Credit Line Acquired 1942; © 2016 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Excerpts taken from Elizabeth Hutton Turner’s interview with Jacob Lawrence, October 1993, transcript in The Phillips Collection Archives:

Jacob Lawrence: So this is the boll weevil. I enjoyed doing this because it’s rather organic in development, much different than some of the other compositions. Up until 1941 when we were married, I had never been to the Deep South. So when Gwen and I were married, one of the first things we did after The Migration Series, I wanted to see and experience an urban southern community. We selected New Orleans because it sounded very romantic, and we had heard so much about it. And then … since Mardi Gras had been suspended at that time because of the war, we decided to go to a rural community and that rural community was Virginia, Lenexa. And my mother told me that I had distant relatives there. I make this statement to say that I had never seen a boll weevil. I had never seen cotton. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen cotton … so I had to improvise. I had to improvise a bug, or what I thought a boll weevil was. I liked the design element, and that’s how this particular work evolved like many of the works here.

Screenshot of Jacob Lawrence microsite

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