By Angela Gonzalez, Curatorial Intern
As an African American artist in New York City, Bob Thompson was immersed in the cities vibrant surroundings. He visited museums to study the art, befriended jazz musicians and worked alongside some of the most noted art historians such as Meyer Schapiro (1904-1996). Born in 1937 in Kentucky, Thompson lived a modest, middle class life. He attended University of Louisville where he pursued a degree in art.
Thompson moved to the bustling streets of New York in 1959. He resided on the Lower Eastside and obtained his first solo exhibition at the Delancey Street Museum. Later he moved to Paris where he would become influenced by the works of the old masters. When he returned to New York his work took a dramatic shift. Instead of using muted colors, Thompson embraced the philosophy of color field painters and adopted a brighter palette. He decided to move to Provincetown with his wife and to complete new paintings. The Tempest marks one of his later works utilizing the adoption of new his painting techniques.
As part of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens permanent collection, The Tempest references Venetian artist Giorgione’s (1477-1510) Fête Champêtre (ca. 1508). He captures the composition of the earlier work especially in the two main figural elements. Thus, Thompson is comparing himself to Giorgione, and Provincetown to Venice. In Thompson’s reinterpretation of the painting color dominates the canvas generating a heightened sense of expressionism. Thompson’s love for the old masters led him to leave Provincetown in 1965 to depart for Rome, Italy. He continued to study fiercely and paint unrestrained until his untimely death in 1966.