Jacob Lawrence’s Barbershop is representational with abstract qualities that make it an experience to look at. The lines of the six figures give abstract characteristics since the observer is left to draw his conclusions about what is happening in the picture. It is representational with regards to obviously being a painting of six men, 3 of whom are barbers. The details are luxurious as one can see the coat rack with a coat hanging on it, the metal footrests, the barbers’ razors, and brushes, and the cigarette dangling from one gentleman’s fingers.
Repetition plays an important role in this work as it draws the viewer in. For example, all of the barbers are looking down at their customers which makes the viewer look closely at each of the men in the barber chairs. Another example is the color blue, which is a cool calming color. A barbershop is a place where men congregate to not only get their hair cut but also to socialize.
This social time can get loud and boisterous, but the use of the color blue does not let it get too out of control.
The texture is implied in the work thru the shape and structure of the men’s capes. The capes are layered one over another as are the barber’s arms. This provides a rich almost 3D texture. The use of four different types of lines also affects the texture. There are quite a few straight lines-both vertical and horizontal- that provide structure and outline of the subjects.
The zigzag lines on one of the subject’s capes provide visual movement. The fourth line is thin, almost imperceptible as one observes the texture of the barber chair’s metal footrests.
Spatial depth is depicted in the way the barber chairs are constructed, the way the barbers lean on their subjects, and through the use of color showing how the floor and wall meet. Rhythm is created by using lines to indicate movement. Each pair of subjects is separate but melded together which helps to create movement.
The main focal point of the painting is the cigarette that dangles from the fingers of the man in the chair on the far right. The viewer’s eyes keep coming back time and again to this off-center focal point.
Contrast is created thru the use of lines and color. If one looks closely at the customers’ capes, one observes zigzag lines on the blue cape to indicate movement. The capes on the other two gentlemen use contrasting colors to indicate shadows and perhaps even time of day.
Unity and balance are created by the use of the same color black for all of the subjects.