Bob Thompson: Drawings

November 30 - January 8, 2012

Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects and Martha Henry, Inc. present Bob Thompson Drawings an exhibition of drawings by Bob Thompson (1937-1966) that date from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s and includes Thompson’s last known work, a large drawing in oil paint on canvas after Titian.

On view are more than 20 works on paper representing Thompson’s favorite themes executed in a variety of mediums including ink, charcoal, pastel, oil and watercolor. The show covers the artist’s full career beginning in 1958 in Provincetown, MA to his premature death in 1966 in Rome, Italy. All of the drawings are from private collections, and most of them have never been seen in public. We are pleased to present the first comprehensive exhibition in over 35 years devoted to Bob Thompson’s drawings in SHFAP’s new Lower East Side gallery located around the corner from Thompson’s former Clinton and Rivington Street studios.

In the summer of 1958, Bob Thompson arrived in the artist colony of Provincetown, where he was befriended by a number of contemporary figurative painters including Red Grooms, Lester Johnson and Gandy Brodie. He also discovered and was inspired by the work of the recently deceased Jan Müller. There the younger artist developed two of his earliest themes. One, a man wearing a broad brimmed hat is a symbol for the artist. As Paul Mocsanyi wrote in a 1969 New School catalog, “The silhouette of a black observer stands far away from the action… in the background, always watching, sometimes threatening. By his posture, his hat, his gesture, one can identify him as being the artist himself.” A second theme is nude women in a forest. Jeanne Siegel interviewed Thompson who said after seeing Cezanne’s Bathers at the Barnes Foundation; he became fascinated by women and trees: “I paint a woman that is real for me…and then I am going to put her right beside a tree and I relate her to the sensuality of the tree…” The exhibition includes drawings from 1958 that establish both of the motifs in the artist’s oeuvre.

Thompson had been encouraged to study Old Masters by painter Dody Müller, Jan’s widow, and he heeded her advice after he moved to Europe in early 1961. Living for extended periods of time in France, Spain and Italy, Thompson immersed himself in art history, drawing upon Poussin, Goya and Italian Renaissance artists for inspiration and instruction.