Lawrence was drafted by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1943, but he was encouraged to continue painting by his first commanding officer, Captain J.S. Rosenthal, and later by Captain Charlton Skinner aboard the USS Sea Cloud. Skinner, whose face Lawrence immortalized in this portrait, was familiar with Lawrence’s art career and helped him obtain a rank of petty officer third class in public relations so that he could record with his paintbrush the daily happenings at sea. Initially, Lawrence faced discrimination in the segregated Coast Guard, but later found relief on the Sea Cloud, which was the first integrated ship in the U.S. Navy.
Graphic Masters II: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2009