Skip to main content

Bob Thompson papers, 1949-2005

Thompson, Bob (Robert Louis), 1937-1966

Painter

This site provides access to the papers of Bob (Robert Louis) Thompson in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2017, and total 1,887 images.

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 2.0 linear feet

Summary: The papers of New York African American figurative painter Bob Thompson measure 2 linear feet and date from 1949 to 2005. The collection includes biographical material, videocassettes, correspondence, writings by Bob Thompson and others, exhibition files, scattered personal business records, printed material, photographs, and photograph albums. The correspondence is mostly between Carol Thompson, the artist's wife, and others concerning Bob Thompson's artwork.
Biographical material includes certificates, school memorabilia, biographical chronologies, a memorial program and obituaries, and a transcript of "Bob Thompson: His Life and Friendships" panel discussion with several notable artists commenting on Thompson. There is also a video recording copy of a 1965 film by Dorothy Levitt Beskind titled "Bob Thompson Happening" which was made to accompany a 1999 exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art.
Carol Thompson's correspondence is with various galleries, dealers, and friends primarily concerning Bob Thompson's artwork and posthumous exhibitions. There is correspondence with art historian Judith Wilson, the artist's mother Bessie Thompson, David Anderson Gallery, and Donald Morris Gallery.
Writings by Bob Thompson include church speeches, a letter to the editor of Louisville Courier Journal, a poem, and an artist statement. There are also writings about Thompson by others, including his mother Bessie Thompson, wife Carol Thompson, and artists and friends, including Margaret Bridwell, Dario Covi, Carl Crodel, Emilio Cruz, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones, Mary H. Martin, Mary Spencer May, Carter Ratcliff, Meyer Schapiro, A. B. Spellman, Ulfert Wilke, and Ken Young. The writings by friends are mostly in the form of recollections by friends that were gathered as a memorial tribute to Thompson.
Exhibition files consist of material related to posthumous group and solo exhibitions of Bob Thompson's work.
The majority of the personal business records are posthumous and include inventories, loan and consignment forms, sales and appraisal records, and scattered correspondence.
Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, magazine and newspaper clippings about Bob Thompson, blank postcards of artwork, posters, and press releases.
There are photographs of Bob Thompson, family, and friends, including many artists, shot in various locations in New York City and Provincetown, as well as in Spain, France, and Italy. There are images of Thompson's Rivington Street studio, the Billiard Palace and the Slugs Jazz Club in New York City, exhibitions, events, street scenes, and artwork. There are four photographs albums, one of the Thompson's wedding, two of exhibitions (one is disbound), and one personal album with many photographs of friends and family, including the artist's mother Bessie Thompson and wife Carol Thompson.

Biographical/Historical Note

Bob Thompson (1937-1966) was an African American figurative painter who worked primarily in New York City.

Provenance

The collection was donated by Elaine Plenda, the artist's sister-in-law, in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Funding

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.