Jacob Lawrence devoted his distinguished career, which spanned seven decades, to documenting African-American life and history. During his nine-month voluntary confinement at Hillside Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Queens, New York, Lawrence made eleven paintings on paper in casein (a liquid medium similar to gouache, in which the pigment binder is made from acidified skim milk). All of these works were exhibited together at New York's Downtown Gallery in 1950. In this one, patients paint as a release from tension and illness.
Lawrence's physician, Dr. Emmanuel Klein, who studied the relationship between art and neurosis, explained the works: "These paintings did not come from his temporary illness. As they always have-and as is true for most real artists-the paintings express the healthiest portion of his personality, the part that is in close touch both with the inner depths of his own feeling and with the outer world."