Lawson, Clarence (1909–1988)

By: Kharen Monsho

Type: Biography

Published: March 1, 1995

Clarence Lawson, sculptor, was born in Beaumont, Texas, in 1909. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1933 to 1938. In June 1938 he became the first black artist to receive the James Nelson Raymond Study and Travel Fellowship from the institute, and between 1930 and 1940 he traveled in Europe, the Orient, and the Middle East. During World War II Lawson served in the navy and taught arts and crafts to wounded soldiers. In 1951 he was invited to participate in the national sculpture exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he entered a bronze bust of the composer Sergei Rachmaninov and received critical acclaim for his entry. Lawson exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the American Negro Exposition, Atlanta University, Howard University, the South Side Community Center in Chicago, and Tanner Art Galleries. His most important works include Green Apples, Oranges & Objects, Self Portrait, Patron of the Arts, Water Boy, Portrait of a Girl, I'm Hep, Canteen Girl, The Prophet, Malayan Village, Design for Wooden Door, Primitive, Nude Woman, and Portrait #1. Lawson married Della Meery Emery. He was a Catholic and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. He and his wife resided in Sag Harbor, Long Island, in their later years. Lawson died on August 15, 1988, in Chicago and was buried in the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

T. D. Cederholm, ed., Afro-American Artists: A Bio-Bibliographical Directory (Boston Public Library, 1973). Chicago Tribune, August 18, 1988. New York Times, August 17, 1988. James A. Porter, American Negro Art (New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1969).
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Architecture
  • Architects
  • Visual Arts
  • Sculpture

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kharen Monsho, “Lawson, Clarence,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995

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