Jacob Lawrence and The Girl in the Blood Red Coat: George Washington Summer Immersion

This photograph comes from the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. As part of a Pre-College Summer Immersion program at George Washington University I traveled there to view this Jacob Lawrence painting and create an ekphrastic writing response to the piece. This response is written below the photograph of Lawrence’s artwork.


the straight lines intrigue me

vibrant colors draw me in

the story unfolds

Your eyes are first drawn to the figure in the blood red coat.

Her companion wears a long blue cloak.

His vibrant feathers billow in the wind as the world swirls around them.

At first one may mistake the pair as lovers, but the long dark braid of the girl reveals her innocence.

The man is her father and also her chief, although she resents him for that.

The two stand close together with an intensity that anyone would be fearful to intrude upon.

You see in his eyes that he adores his daughter, but right now there is nothing he can do to console her.

Snippets of conversation float over to where you stand.

You cannot help but overhear the hushed tones of their discussion.

Chief: Your mother would not approve.

Daughter: Mother is no longer with us, chief.

She spits the final words at him as his face collapses. He is tired and worn-out.

Your eyes shift to the great man’s right side, back a couple of feet.

There stands a man of importance.

His garb is subtle, but the rank of this man is made clear by the bright white face paint that contrasts greatly with his dark facial features.

He does not look angry, but rather slightly vexed with the situation taking place in front of him.

His gaze is almost focused two places at once.

Towards the chief, his superior, he whispers quietly, with you only grasping a couple of jumbled up words.

Advisor: Sir… important people… waiting… forget about her… not important…

The advisor’s gaze also looks behind the pair in the cloaks towards two hunters standing to your left.

They both stand tall and proud.

Each clasp a long, pointed spear in one hand as they watch the chief earnestly.

The taller man with the dark brown clock looks impatient with being told to wait.

The shorter man looks almost irked by the entirety of the situation.

Despite being in the presence of one of the greatest men in the tribe, their conversation is loud and disrespectful.

You hardly have to try in order to hear every word that they are saying.

Hunter 1: Why must he call us over here simply to ignore us for his ungrateful daughter?

Hunter 2: I suggest we take our findings and leave the tribe altogether.

three groups, one picture

each with a different story

how will it all end


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