Thomas Sills (August 20, 1914 – September 26, 2000) was a painter and collagist and a participant in the New York Abstract Expressionist movement. At the peak of his career in the 1960s and 1970s, his work was widely shown in museums. He had four solo shows at Betty Parsons Gallery, was regularly featured in art journals and is in museum collections.
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.
Thomas Sills was born and raised in Castalia, North Carolina. Before he got involved with painting, he worked in a greenhouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the color around him made a strong impression on him. Once in New York, he worked on the docks, as a janitor, and as a deliveryman.
Castalia, is a town in Nash County, North Carolina, United States. It is part of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 268 at the 2010 census.
A greenhouse is a structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to industrial-sized buildings. A miniature greenhouse is known as a cold frame. The interior of a greenhouse exposed to sunlight becomes significantly warmer than the external ambient temperature, protecting its contents in cold weather.
Raleigh is the capital of the state of North Carolina and the seat of Wake County in the United States. Raleigh is the second-largest city in the state, after Charlotte. Raleigh is known as the "City of Oaks" for its many oak trees, which line the streets in the heart of the city. The city covers a land area of 142.8 square miles (370 km2). The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population as 479,332 as of July 1, 2018. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The city of Raleigh is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in present-day Dare County.
Sills spent most of his creative life in New York City, deeply rooted in the artistic trends as well as cultural issues from the early 1950s to 1970s. He knew Willem de Kooning who visited his studio and told him not to throw anything away before anyone had seen it.
Willem de Kooning was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist. He was born in Rotterdam and moved to the United States in 1926, becoming an American citizen in 1962. In 1943, he married painter Elaine Fried.
Others in the NY circle gave him advice. At the time of his first solo show, Barnett Newman sent him a letter of congratulations.His friendships with Newman and Mark Rothko placed him at the intellectual center of the Abstract Expressionist movement, but like de Kooning, Arshile Gorky and Franz Kline, Sills believed that it was not necessary to explain his art; he painted what he felt and it came from within.
Mark Rothko, born Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz, was an American painter of Russian Jewish descent. Although Rothko himself refused to adhere to any art movement, he is generally identified as an abstract expressionist.
Arshile Gorky was an Armenian-American painter, who had a seminal influence on Abstract Expressionism. He spent most his life as a national of the United States. Along with Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Gorky has been hailed as one of the most powerful American painters of the 20th century. As such, his works were often speculated to have been informed by the suffering and loss he experienced in the Armenian Genocide.
Franz Kline was an American painter. He is associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s and 1950s. Kline, along with other action painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, John Ferren, and Lee Krasner, as well as local poets, dancers, and musicians came to be known as the informal group, the New York School. Although he explored the same innovations to painting as the other artists in this group, Kline's work is distinct in itself and has been revered since the 1950s.
Sills began his work as a fine artist when he was in his mid-thirties, about the time he married the mosaicist and art collector Jeanne Reynal, who was an important member of the surrealist movement in the United Sates. Essentially self-taught and inspired by Reynal's collection of abstract art, he began working with the materials he found in her mosaic studio, but soon branched out to oil on wood as well as canvas.
In European academic traditions, fine art is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from applied art, which also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork.
Jeanne Reynal (1903-1983) was an American artist. Her work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her personal papers from 1942 to 1968 are included in the Archives of American Art.
Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. The arts of cultures other than the European had become accessible and showed alternative ways of describing visual experience to the artist. By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical arguments were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in all areas of Western culture at that time.
Through his exploratory approach to materials, Sills was able to release phantasmical abstract paintings. Intrigued by the light quality of mosaics, a similar luminosity emerged in Sill's bright oil compositions. His provocative handling of color and innovative use of media attracted the attention of the New York avant-garde.
A mosaic is a piece of art or image made from the assembling of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It is often used in decorative art or as interior decoration. Most mosaics are made of small, flat, roughly square, pieces of stone or glass of different colors, known as tesserae. Some, especially floor mosaics, are made of small rounded pieces of stone, and called "pebble mosaics".
Sills's regular presence in the art world of the 1950s through the early 1970s as an African-American painter situated him as an integral element of the mainstream and African-American art. Thomas Sills perceived his art to be beyond the political. He found in Art a form of expression for the dynamism that escapes any formal constraints. Sills' work was highly intuitive and he too sought inspiration from indigenous art—in the 1950s he made frequent trips to Mexico to study the sculptures, frescos and architecture of Chiapas and the Yucatan.
At the peak of his career in the 1960s and 1970s, his work was widely shown in museums. He had four solo shows at Betty Parsons Gallery, was regularly featured in art journals and is in museum collections. Today, there is a renaissance of the popularity of his works. He is being exhibited in many shows, most recently African American Abstract Masters at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery, New York and Abstraction Plus Abstraction at Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, and Encore, Five Abstract Expressionists at Sidney Mishkin Gallery of Baruch College, The City University of New York in 2006.
His work has been acquired by over 30 museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum Modern of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Newark Museum.
Thomas Sills died on September 26, 2000, in New York City at the age of 86.
The New York School was an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City. They often drew inspiration from surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular action painting, abstract expressionism, jazz, improvisational theater, experimental music, and the interaction of friends in the New York City art world's vanguard circle.
Ethel Kremer Schwabacher was an abstract expressionist painter, represented by the Betty Parsons Gallery in the 1950s and 1960s. She was a protégé and first biographer of Arshile Gorky, and friends with many of the prominent painters of New York at that time, including Willem de Kooning, Richard Pousette-Dart, Kenzo Okada, and José Guerrero. She was also the author of a monograph on the artist John Ford and a memoir, "Hungry for Light".
Betty Parsons was an American artist, art dealer, and collector known for her early promotion of Abstract Expressionism.
Albert Kotin belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists whose artistic innovation by the 1950s had been recognized across the Atlantic, including in Paris. The New York School Abstract Expressionism, represented by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and others became a leading art movement of the post-World War II era.
Friedel Dzubas was a German-born American abstract painter.
Nicolas Carone belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists. Their artistic innovation by the 1950s had been recognized internationally, including in London and Paris. New York School Abstract Expressionism, represented by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Conrad Marca-Relli and others, became a leading art movement of the postwar era.
Ernest Briggs (1923–1984) was a second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter known for his expressive, sometimes calligraphic brushwork, his geometric compositions, and revolution in abstract painting that secured New York City's position as the art capital of the world in the post-World War II period.
Mary Abbott is an American artist known as a member of the New York School of abstract expressionists in the late 1940s and 1950s. Her abstract and figurative work were also influenced by her time spent in St. Croix and Haiti, where she lived off and on throughout the 1950s.
Perle Fine (1905–1988) was an American Abstract Expressionist painter. Fine was most known by her combination of fluid and brushy rendering of the materials and her use of biomorphic forms encased and intertwined with irregular geometric shapes.
Edward Dugmore was an abstract expressionist painter with close ties to both the San Francisco and New York art worlds in the post-war era following World War II. Since 1950 he had more than two dozen solo exhibitions of his paintings in galleries across the United States. His paintings have been seen in hundreds of group exhibitions over the years.
Edward Clark, also known as Ed Clark, is an African American abstract expressionist painter and one of the early experimenters with shaped canvas in the 1950s. Edward Clark stated:
..all great artists can only do what they esteem to be right. No matter how it appears at first, it will always be beautiful.
Michael Loew was an American Abstract Expressionist artist who was born in New York City.
Seymour Boardman (1921–2005) was a New York abstract expressionist. Since his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1951, Boardman developed a personal vision and style of his own, following his own path of abstraction. As a painter he sought to reduce the image to its bare essence.
Robert Goodnough was an American abstract expressionist painter. A veteran of World War II, Goodnough was one of the last of the original generation of the New York School;, even though he began exhibiting his work in galleries in New York City in the early 1950s. Robert Goodnough was among the 24 artists from the total of 256 participants who were included in the famous 9th Street Art Exhibition, (1951) and in all the following New York Painting and Sculpture Annuals from 1953 to 1957. These Annuals were important because the participants were chosen by the artists themselves. Early in his career starting in 1950 he showed his paintings at the Wittenborn Gallery, NYC. He had shown at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City from 1952 to 1970 and again from 1984 to 1986. In 1960 and 1961 he had solo exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago. A veteran of scores of solo exhibitions and hundreds of group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, Goodnough also had solo exhibitions in 1969 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. A major work by Goodnough is included in The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection in Albany, NY. In later years his paintings were also associated with the Color Field movement.
Lawrence Calcagno (1913–1993) was a San Francisco Bay area abstract expressionist painter. He described his artistic motivation in the following words
Alvin D. Loving Jr., better known as Al Loving, was an African-American abstract expressionist painter. His work is known for hard-edge abstraction, fabric constructions, and large paper collages, all exploring complicated color relationships.
Yvonne Thomas was an American abstract artist.
Amaranth Roslyn Ehrenhalt is an American painter, sculptor, and writer, who spent the majority of her career living and working in Paris, France. Ehrenhalt is one of the few abstract expressionists from the New York School of the 1950s who is still active today. She now lives and works in New York City.
The Anita Shapolsky Gallery is an art gallery that was founded in 1982. It is located at 152 East 65th Street, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in New York City.
Jeanne Patterson Miles (1908–1990) was an American abstract painter and sculptor.