Bob Thompson (painter)

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Bob Thompson
Born Robert Louis Thompson
(1937-06-26)June 26, 1937
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Died May 30, 1966
Rome, Italy
Occupation Figurative painter

Bob Thompson (June 26, 1937 – May 30, 1966[1]) was an American figurative painter known for his bold and colorful canvases, whose compositions were appropriated from the Old Masters. He was very prolific in his eight-year career, producing over 1000 works before his death in Rome, Italy in 1966. The Whitney Museum in New York mounted a retrospective of his work in 1998. He also has works in numerous private and public collections throughout the United States.

Life and career[edit]

Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His father died in a car crash when he was 13, and he lived with relatives who exposed him to art and jazz.[2]

He was briefly a pre-med student at Boston University (1955–56) but dropped out and returned to the University of Louisville (1957–58) where he studied painting under German expressionist Ulfert Wilke.

In 1958 he moved to New York City where he formed friendships with jazz musicians such as Charlie Haden and Ornette Coleman while a regular at the Jazz clubs The Five Spot and Slugs. He also formed friendships with writers Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones in addition to fellow artists Lester Johnson, Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, and Allan Kaprow, with whom he participated in some of the earliest Happenings. In 1960, he had his first solo exhibition at the Delancy Street Museum and later at the Martha Jackson Gallery where he had solo exhibitions in 1963-4, and 1965.

He married in 1960 and moved with his wife to Europe in 1961. They went to London, Paris (staying at the so-called Beat Museum hotel) and to Spain, where they settled on Ibiza. Thompson wanted to draw inspiration from the European Old Masters and perhaps also wanted to escape drugs. However, his drug use took its toll. He died from a heroin overdose[3] following gall bladder surgery in Rome, Italy in 1966.[2]