Pool Parlor, 1942. Jacob Lawrence. Watercolor and gouache on paper. Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1942. © 2020 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
In 1942, twenty-five-year-old Lawrence gained national recognition when the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., shared the acquisition of his sixty-panel Migration of the Negro series and sent it on a fifteen-venue tour across the United States. Later that year, the Metropolitan Museum purchased its first work by the artist, Pool Parlor, a prizewinner in "The Artists for Victory" competition. Painted with Lawrence’s characteristic flat forms, angular lines, and a vibrant palette, the work depicts a Harlem pool hall. Men in exaggerated poses, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and the zigzag of cigarette smoke all contribute to the lively scene.