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 Howard Wilber Thomas  (1899 - 1971)

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Lived/Active: North Carolina/Ohio      Known for: mod townscape and landscape painter, educator, printmaker

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Ad Code: 3
Howard Thomas
from Auction House Records.
"Festival 41'
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Howard Wilber Thomas, painter, printmaker, and educator, began studying art in 1919 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  In 1930, after several years of teaching high school, he began teaching at Milwaukee State Teachers College.  He also directed the Milwaukee Handicraft Program sponsored by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.

Thomas made his first visit to the South in 1941 and never left.  In 1942 he became chair of the art department of the College for Women, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.  Soon after, he relocated to Decatur, Georgia, to teach at Agnes Scott College.  In 1945 he joined the faculty of the art department of the University of Georgia, where he remained until retiring in 1965.

Thomas kept detailed sketchbooks that date from his earliest student years until his death.  Like many painters who travel, he used these sketchbooks as diaries in which he described the scenes of the city and countryside he visited.  All entries were dated and enlivened by his comments.  When he arrived in the South, Thomas concentrated mostly on the everyday life of African Americans, filling sketchbooks with drawings and descriptions of rural areas around Greensboro and elsewhere.

After a trip to Selma, Alabama, his notes include “cotton fields in bloom” and “tobacco stripped up until only the top leaves were left to ripen.”  Sketches from a trip to Athens, Georgia, include street scenes and mill houses in black communities. Thomas became very absorbed in these working-class American environments, noting shapes and color combinations: “red turban,” “pink dress,” and “gray coat.”

Thomas exhibited extensively throughout his career and won many honors and prizes, including invitations to exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1950 and the Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art at the Whitney Museum in 1958.  His later painting technique, which involved the use of natural earth pigments, was documented in a film, Earth Red, Howard Thomas Paints a Gouache, produced in 1964 with his wife, artist Anne Wall Thomas, and his colleague, James Herbert.

Submited by Staff, Columbus Museum

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