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Seattle Art Museum now open with iconic Jacob Lawrence exhibition

'The American Struggle' runs through May 23

SEATTLE — The Seattle Art Museum has officially re-opened to the public, in time for a new exhibition featuring an iconic painter who called Seattle home.

"Jacob Lawrence was one of the most significant narrative artists of the 20th century, and probably the most significant African American artist of the 20th century,” said curator Theresa Papanikolas. "He moved in Seattle in 1970 to take a job at the University of Washington and ended up spending the rest of his life here."

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle focuses on a 30-panel series he painted during the 1950’s called Struggle: The History of the American People.

"It captures the high points of American history, but as told from alternative perspectives - the perspectives of women, of indigenous people, of African Americans especially,” Papanikolas said. "There are scenes of battle, there are scenes of protest, there are scenes of death and life. This is a really good example of how art history can really resonate and be relevant in the present."

It’s been more than half a century since the Struggle series was last exhibited. After that showing, the collection was acquired by museums and private collectors and the panels were scattered. Five were missing for years.

"The hope was that some would come to light, and late last year two did. Panels 16 and 28, and they're both at SAM,” Papanikolas said. "This is the first time in decades that the series has been brought together."

The exhibition also includes an installation featuring a collage of old photos and Lawrence’s easy chair.

"It's humanizing Lawrence,” Papanikolas said. “It's taking Lawrence out of the status of an icon and really showing him as a person who lived a life.”

The exhibition is on display through May 23.

"History is for all of us, and especially American history. It's something that we share,” Papanikolas said. "And it's a really amazing opportunity because this is the only place on the West Coast that you'll be able to see it."

SAM is open Friday-Sunday from 10am – 5pm. Capacity is limited and tickets can be purchased in advance online.

RELATED: SAM reopens with 'Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle' exhibit alongside works from young artists

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