Cover image for Dox Thrash : an African American master printmaker rediscovered
Dox Thrash : an African American master printmaker rediscovered
Ittmann, John W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Philadelphia Museum of Art ; Seattle : In association with the University of Washington Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xi, 176 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm.
General Note:
Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Oct. 27, 2001-Feb. 24, 2002 and at the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Sept. 10-Nov. 3, 2002.
Dox Thrash : "I always wanted to be an artist" / John Ittmann -- The fine print workshop of the Philadelphia Federal Art Project / Cindy Medley-Buckner -- Dox Thrash and the Pyramid Club / David R. Brigham -- "Racial idiom" in the work of Dox Thrash / Kymberly N. Pinder.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NE539.T53 A4 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize
NE539.T53A4 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



Dox Thrash came of age as an artist in the 1920s and 1930s, a time when art in the United States began to offer accurate reflections of everyday life. Throughout his career Thrash drew on personal experience for the striking imagery in his work, with scenes ranging from childhood memories of the rural South to hard times in the urban centers of the North, patriotic defense work during wartime, and poetic portraits of his community and its residents.

Born in Georgia in 1893, Thrash left home at a young age and worked his way north to Chicago. After a decade of attending evening and day classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he spent the next few years living in Boston, Connecticut, and New York before settling in the late 1920s in Philadelphia, where he remained until his death in 1965.

During the early years of the Depression in Philadelphia, Thrash found part-time work as a graphic designer, while also beginning to make a name for himself as a painter. But it was as a printmaker that he would leave his most lasting mark. In the late 1940s he received national attention for his role in the launching of a new printmaking technique, the carborundum print, developed in late 1937 in the Fine Print Workshop of the Federal Art Project. a branch of the government-sponsored Works Progress Administration (WPA).

It is Thrash?s evocative carborundum prints that have most often been chosen for exhibition, both during his lifetime and after, but the artist was also a master of many other printmaking methods. Published here for the first time is an illustrated catalogue raisonné of all 188 prints Thrash is known to have made.

The four essays in this volume open windows on different aspects of the artist?s life, offering a historical overview of his training and career as a printmaker; an examination of the inner workings of the Fine Print Workshop in Philadelphia, the only WPA workshop devoted entirely to the produciton of limited-edition prints; a re-creation of the Pyramid Club, Philadelphia?s premier African American cultural and social institution in the 1940s and 1950s; and an investigation of Thrash?s use of African American themes in his work.

Contributors include John Ittmann, Philadelphia Museum of Art; David Brigham, Worcester Art Museum; Cindy Medley-Buckner, independent scholar; and Kymberly N. Pinder, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Georgia-born Dox Thrash (1893-1965) always knew he would be an artist, but he also had a yen for travel and did so as part of a vaudeville act. He eventually made his way to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the few art schools to welcome black artists, and became accomplished in both fine arts and graphic design. Thrash made Philadelphia his home and soon made history as coinventor of a new form of printmaking, the carborundum mezzotint. The creator of fresh, expressive works distinguished by technical mastery, brilliant use of line and contrast, and powerfully evocative atmospheres, he was, as prints curator Ittmann writes in the first of four illuminating essays, "a multi-faceted artist with a poetic sensibility, dashing style, and a winning sense of humor." But he also possessed an abiding sense of justice and empathy. Marked by his confrontations with racism, Thrash subtly conveyed the psychological toll prejudice exacts, especially in his sensitive portraits of women. This laudable volume is the first to publish a complete illustrated catalogue raisonneof Thrash's magnificent prints. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

Dox Thrash always knew he wanted to be an artist. He left rural Georgia at the turn of the century and took night courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago while working as an elevator operator. Although his career was interrupted by service in World War I, he earned a living as a graphic designer until the Depression. After settling in Philadelphia, Thrash joined the Fine Print workshop of the WPA, where he was instrumental in discovering the carborundom technique, an intaglio process whose results resemble a mezzotint. His depictions of everyday life, memories of the South, graceful nudes, and humanistic portraits convey an African American social realism that have hardly been appreciated until now. Curator and organizer of a major retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Ittmann has assembled a catalogue raisonn along with four essays by additional scholars dealing with the artist's life plus the social milieu of his time. WPA artists made important contributions to American art history, and the African American artists among them are especially underrepresented in most collections, making this high-quality book a worthwhile purchase. Susan Lense, Upper Arlington P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Thrash, an African American printmaker, has finally received overdue recognition via a handsome exhibition and catalog organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Born in Georgia but active in Philadelphia art circles from the 1930s to the 1950s, Thrash made his mark on art history with his carborundum-process mezzotints and relief etchings. This innovative technique creates velvety blacks and whites that command the viewer's attention whether on the museum's walls or as small reproductions in the catalogue raisonne of prints. In addition to the print catalog and the excellent reproduction of all images, including color images of watercolors and posters, the inclusion of numerous period photographs of the artist and his circle distinguishes this first monograph on Thrash as indispensable. Four essays unevenly probe Thrash's life and career as an African American iconographer, Works Project Administration printmaker, and member of the Pyramid Club. Kimberly Pinder (Art Institute of Chicago) provides the most compelling essay with her astute analysis of Thrash's New Negro explorations in portraiture, minstrel imagery, renditions of the female nude, and borrowings from African art. Extensive endnotes, chronology, exhibition record, print term glossary, bibliography, and proper name index. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. J. Simon University of Georgia

Table of Contents

Anne d'HarnoncourtJohn IttmannCindy Medley-BucknerDavid R. BrighamKymberly N. PinderJennifer Noonan
Lenders to the Exhibitionp. vi
Forewordp. vii
Prefacep. viii
Note to the Readerp. xii
Dox Thrash: "I Always Wanted To Be an Artist"p. 1
The Fine Print Workshop of the Philadelphia Federal Art Projectp. 43
Dox Thrash and the Pyramid Clubp. 53
"Racial Idiom" in the Work of Dox Thrashp. 65
Guide to the Catalogue Raisonne of Printsp. 84
Abbreviationsp. 88
Catalogue Raisonne of Printsp. 90
Chronologyp. 130
Lifetime Exhibition Recordp. 140
Notesp. 146
Glossary of Printmaking Termsp. 163
Selected Bibliographyp. 164
Alphabetical List of Print Titlesp. 167
Indexesp. 170