Jacob Lawrence’s War Series is a collection of 60 panels that depict the emotional experiences of soldiers during World War II. Created in 1947, Victory and Defeat are two paintings of the series. Victory depicts a soldier with his head hanging low, conveying the moral ambiguity and sorrow often associated with wartime victories. The painting is done in Lawrence’s signature flattened forms, angular lines, limited color palette, and silhouettes similar to that seen in Egyptian wall paintings.
Lawrence painted all 60 panels simultaneously and used dynamic cubism as his style, an influence from Harlem. He depicted various emotional experiences ranging from fear to confusion of combat throughout the War Series. In Victory and other paintings within the series, overlapping profiles were used extensively to give depth and texture.
Although created after World War II had ended, Lawrence painted Victory to commemorate its conclusion while acknowledging emotions felt by soldiers who fought in it. Beyond this painting’s historical significance lies how art can evoke emotions despite not being true-to-life depictions of events. Jacob Lawrence’s War Series was much more than just visual representation but rather highlights how art can tell stories beyond words or images on paper.