Arthur Thrall’s Art: Calligraphy, Musical Notation and Elegant Line
January 21 - March 3, 2016
The Cedarburg Art Museum is showing the paintings, prints, and intaglio plates of internationally recognized artist, Arthur Thrall, in an exhibition Tribute to a Master Artist January 21 – April 3, 2016. Over his long career of painting and printmaking that began in 1950 and continued until just weeks before his death in March, 2015, Milwaukee-born artist Arthur Thrall projected a visual language that encompassed a wide-ranging body of knowledge. Teaching for twenty-six years at Lawrence University and eight years before that at Milwaukee-Downer College allowed Thrall to regularly share ideas with scientists, anthropologists, mathematicians, and musicians. This had an influential impact on the nature and range of his artwork.
Thrall’s mature visual language is ageless and has been appreciated around the world. His work has been collected abroad by the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Pori Library (Finland) and U.S. embassies in India, Columbia, Belgium, Israel, Algeria, Peru, and Argentina.
In the United States, the Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum, and Museum of Wisconsin Art as well as many corporate collections across America also hold works by Arthur Thrall.
A great diversity of themes runs through Thrall’s artwork over 65 years: clowns and musicians, aging facades, signs with graffiti and typography, handwriting, calligraphy, ancient manuscripts and documents, ancient tablets, circuit boards, musical notation and scores, and elegant line. One can sense a progression from graffiti to handwriting to calligraphy, then to alphabets and mathematical or scientific symbols for their abstractness. Musical notation and scores were a dominant, fascinating topic for decades. Eventually line as an element that can be thick or thin with fine proportion, always curvaceous and compelling, binding all other pictorial parts together became Arthur Thrall’s elegant subject matter. The focus of this exhibition, Tribute to a Master Artist, is narrowed in order to develop the artist’s themes of calligraphy, musical notation, and line with greater depth and breadth. The exhibition is unique in that it includes many of the artist’s latest paintings from 2013 – 2015 among earlier ones, the printmaker’s copper and zinc plates for his intaglio prints and a Mark Heffron video showing the artist’s complete process of creating an engraving, from the detailed preparation of the plate through various trial proofs to the finished print.
In 2007 Arthur Thrall describes his own work:
For many years music has been an inspiration for my paintings and prints. It is one of many graphic sources that have fascinated me, such as manuscripts, calligraphy, diagrams, graffiti, maps, scientific and technical charts. I freely interpret them for their gestural and textural effects rather than their literal meanings. My ideas emerge as impressionistic motifs and arrangements that echo their essence. With the musical themes, I consider them visual music or a kind of choreography.