New York City
Bob Thompson’s age alone sets him apart from his contemporaries. While most artists spent decades struggling for financial and professional success, Thompson found a worshipping audience while only 21. Anything but formulaic, the iconoclastic Thompson frequently altered his style and eventually drew from artwork seen during an European sojourn. This period’s work remains both influential and unique for its dark, almost haunted nakedness. “The Monsters are present now on my canvas,” Thompson said, “as in my dreams.”
Considered a lost gem of both African-American art and the Beat Generation, Bob Thompson’s work now experiences a resurgence in popularity among collectors and art historians.
Formally educated at the University of Louisville, his style draws heavily the blaring colors and contorted figures of German Expressionism, not surprising since his first, greatest influence was German Expressionist Ulfert Wilke.
Thompson enjoyed meteoric success at an early age, and his shows routinely attracted massive audiences and patrons. As he aged, his work became less abstract but no less emotional. A tour of Europe and a study of the Old Masters created dramatic changes in his work, and he soon began featuring classic motifs and symbols. This mix of the old and new schools in art appealed to an artistic culture (and American culture) that searched for identity.
Descent from the Cross, oil on canvas, 1963 (Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.) http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=24043
The Spinning, Spinning, Turning and Directing, oil on canvas, 1963 (Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.) http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=24046
Homage to Nina Simone, oil on canvas, 1965 (The Minneapolis Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota) http://kecobe.tumblr.com/post/57195432342/bob-thompson-american-1937-1966-homage-to-nina
Ornette, oil on canvas, 1965 (Birmingham Museum of Art) http://blog.al.com/entertainment-press-register/2009/09/birmingham_museum_opens_africa.html
Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe. “Bob Thompson: Biography.” 2014. http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artist/?id=4784
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. “Bob Thompson (1937-1966).” 2014. http://www.michaelrosenfeldart.com/artists/bob-thompson-1937-1966
Whitney Museum of American Art. “Bob Thompson at the Whitney Museum.” October 28, 1998. http://www.culturekiosque.com/art/exhibiti/rhethomp.htm