Discovering Abstract Expressionist – Victor Thall


Victor Thall

October 5 - February 22

Opening: October 5

Thall abandoned New York in 1950 as the Abstract Expressionist movement rose to fame. For the first time, a retrospective of Thall’s body of work will be on display and his story will be told.

Click Here to read an Interview with Thall from June 8, 1965


About the Artist

Victor Thall

Artist’s Bio:

Victor Thall belongs to that unique American brand of rugged individualists. During the 1930s he was the recipient of government support along with de Kooning, Gorky, Guston, Fogel and others as they painted their way through the Great Depression under the auspices of the federal art programs (FAP). After WWII, he became an Abstract Expressionist and continued to work with de Kooning and Gorky. Frustrated with New York, he abandoned it on the eve of international recognition making a worldwide tour of indigenous cultures attempting to find a solution to the crisis of abstraction. Because of his absence, America lost touch with a great artist.

Victor Thall was born in New York in 1902. He studied at the age of eleven at the Arts Student League, still its youngest member under Arthur B. Davies, George Bellows, George Luks, and John Sloan. Further studies were at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He left for Paris in 1924 to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Academie Julien. In France, he met Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Returning to the United States in the midst of the Great Depression, he made friends with Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Arshile Gorky. In the late 1940s, he taught at the Arts Student League and was represented by the Whitney Museum in 1949 and 1950. His paintings are in numerous private collections in the United States and Europe. He died in 1983.

In an interview with Betty Hoag (Oral history interview with Victor Thall, June 8, 1965, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution), Thall discusses his views on “Modern Art,” “My point of view ranges from between expressionism and abstraction, the motif determining how far I wish to go in either direction. The term ‘Modern Art’ seems to indicate a break with the past as if suddenly at a certain date modern art was born. I do not believe this to be true but it is a convenient peg on which to hang the mantles of incompetence and ignorance. The history of art goes back to the cave drawings of Altimira done forty thousand years ago but as modern as Picasso. I believe in tradition. I see no reason why an abstract painting cannot contain a design and structural strength of a Turner or Tintoretto. I see in good modern paintings a continuance, a respectful quintessence of the formal methods employed by the masters of the past.”

Thall’s paintings reflect a real understanding of the principles used by past masters such as Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso. His unique vision as an artist lies in the way he was able to incorporate the techniques of previous painters to the individual perspective he brought to his paintings.

The Exhibit