Bob Thompson (1937-1966): A Most Visionary Painter

Thompson in Ibiza, 1962
(c) the respective photographer/ The Whitney Museum of American Art

Ornette, 1960-61, 81 x 77 in.

Black Monster, 1959, 57 x 66 in.

I got into a groove...where the subject matter was monsters. The whole thing was involved in a sort of poetry and the relationship was like man and woman to nature and beasts.
- Bob Thompson

Le Poignarder (The Star), 1959, 50 x 60 in.

Thompson in his studio on Rivington Street, NY, ca. 1964
Photo (c) Charles Rotmil

1961(?) in Paris...saw him in Left Bank hotel studio- we talked and turned on, I dug his new candy-bright colored style making Poussin-esque space, flat colors surface amorphism delineating 3-D figures...I thought him the most original visionary painter of his days, a first natural American psychedelic colorist.
- Allen Ginsberg

After El Greco's Annunciation, 1960, 12 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.
Gouache on photo reproduction.

Saint George and the Dragon, 1961-62, 89 1/2 x 81 1/2 in.

I think painting should be like the...like the theatre... [T]he painters in the Middle Ages, and the Rennaissance...were employed to educate the people...they could walk, and see what was happening...I am not specifically trying to do that...but, in a certain way, I am trying to show what's happening, what's going on...in my own private way.
- Bob Thompson

Garden of Eden, 1963, 10 x 8 in.

Thompson (l.) with Ornette Coleman in Thompson's studio, NYC, 1965
(c) the respective photographer/ The Whitney Museum of American Art

Inferno, 1963, 24 x 20 in.

I wish people would stop talking so much- always criticizing this, that...Tonight is consisted of putting down Balthus, science fiction or other far-fetched things - Why do we often...speak of things that would...take a grand amount of knowledge to discuss with any depth? Terms thrown about like clothes of an untidy boy.
- Bob Thompson

Parnassus, 1964, 20 x 30 in.

St. Matthew's Description of the End of the World, 1964, 72 x 60 1/8 in.

Bob and Carol Thompson in Ibiza, 1962
(c) the respective photographer/ The Whitney Museum of American Art

One time I brought my students from the Dayton Art Institute to New York for a field trip. Bob gave a four hour lecture in his studio starting at three A.M., after we had been at the Five Spot listening to Thelonius [sic] Monk. After the lecture, Bob and I drove to Staten Island just to ride over the new Verazzano [sic] Bridge...Bob painted the whole next day and well into the night. No sleep for 36 hours...
- Jay Milder

Polyphemus, Acis and Galatea, 1964, 9 x 12

Satyr and Maiden, 1965, 10 x 20 in.

LeRoi Jones and His Family, 1964, 36 3/8 x 48 1/2 in.

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take.
- James Baldwin

In the studio, 1963
Image (c) Fred W. McDarrah

...it is neccessary for me to utterly repudiate so-called good painting in order to be free to express that which is visually true to me...My aim is to project images that seem vital to me...images...that seem to have meaning in terms of feeling...
- Bob Thompson


*Above images and text are taken from the catalog "Bob Thompson", published on the occasion of the exhibition "Bob Thompson" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, September 25, 1998 - January 3, 1999.
All content (c) the Whitney Museum of American Art.

catalog available here.










Comments

wow, I love these paintings! For some reason I'm drawn to figures painted as flat forms with a single color. These are some great images.
Paul Behnke said…
Thompson is right up your alley then! I love his work.