• MoMA, Floor 4, 402 The David Geffen Galleries

Most of these artists found inspiration in the streets and homes of Harlem. Helen Levitt, who spent her career photographing lively activity in different parts of the city, captured the upper-Manhattan neighborhood, a center of African American culture. In 1941, resident Jacob Lawrence made a series of paintings about the Great Migration—the multi-decade mass exodus of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North that dramatically increased Harlem’s population. The series was a key example of the way that artists reimagined history painting in the modern era. William H. Johnson, another Southern migrant to Harlem who had returned to the neighborhood after working in Europe, created scenes of everyday African American life in Harlem and in the South with flat compositions and vibrant colors. Alice Neel made portraits of the people of nearby Spanish Harlem, a community that had rarely been represented in such a way. The fusion of art and politics defines these artists’ contributions to the traditions of figurative art in the twentieth century.

41 works online


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].