Longview Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday will unveil the work of an artist who was an early influence on the abstract expressionism movement as it developed in America.
Tiffany Nolan Jehorek, the art museum’s executive director and curator of exhibitions, learned “through a serendipitous string of events “ about a “unique collection” of Victor Thall’s work kept in a Tyler storage unit, information from the museum says.
“This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition is truly a show and story that a much larger institution would undertake,” she said.
Thall (1902-1984) exhibited in the 1949 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting and was chosen by New Yorker art critic Robert Coates as one of three best paintings in the show. In 1950, Thall exhibited with first generation abstract expressionist painters Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and William de Kooning at The Whitney Museum in New York’s Annual Invitational, but Thall abandoned New York as the abstract expressionist movement rose to fame.
Jehorek sought the advice of Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. Walker will speak during Saturday’s opening reception about the life and works of this first-generation abstract expressionist who went off the grid as the movement rose to fame.
“LMFA is pleased to be unveiling Thall’s retrospective for the first time to the public and telling his unique story,” information from the museum says.
Other consultants on the project are University of Texas at Tyler faculty members Kaia L. Magnusen, assistant professor of art history and Robert Stevens, professor of education.
Victor Thall was born in New York in 1902. He studied at the Arts Student League — the youngest member at the age of 11 — under Arthur B. Davies, George Bellows, George Luks and John Sloan. At the age of 16, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1924, he left for Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Academie Julien.
In Paris, he met Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Returning to the United States during the Great Depression, he became friendly with Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky.
A 1947 newspaper article cites Thall as being one of the top 20 artists in America. In the late 1940s, he taught at the Arts Student League and was represented by the Whitney Annual of Contemporary American Painting in 1949 and 1950.
In a review of the 1949 Annual, Robert Coates, art critic for the New Yorker magazine wrote, “The level of work is creditably high, and although there are a few outstanding pieces, there are a heartening number that are distinctly above average, among those I like best…Victor Thall’s, The Waterfall, the Max Beckman, Nice, Boulevards des Anglais and George Prestopino’s small red, and jolly, Track Gang (p. 42).”
In the 1950 Annual, he exhibited ‘Maternity’ along with many first generation abstract expressionist painters, including William Baziotes, Paul Cadmus, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottleb, Phil Guston, Hans Hoffman, Georgia O’Keefe, Robert Motherwell, Jason Pollack and Mark Rothko.
Frustrated with New York, Thall abandoned it on the eve of international recognition making a world tour of indigenous cultures attempting to find the solution to the crisis of abstraction. Because of his absence, America lost touch with a great artist and was denied the opportunity to experience Thall’s unique engagement with both avant-garde European modernism and the visual language of abstraction that was famously embraced by the artists associated with the New York School.