John Havens Thornton
John Havens Thornton is an American artist, born in Mexico City in 1933. He lives and works with his wife - painter Pat Coomey Thornton - in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Thornton first explored and analyzed abstraction, with fellowclassmate Frank Stella, under the guidance of William Seitz at Princeton University in the mid 1950s. Seitz, who later became the first person in 1955 awarded a PhD in modern art from Princeton University, wrote some of the earliest major texts on Abstract Expressionism and had strong influence on John Thornton's work. After his graduation in 1955, Thornton moved to New York and developed a mature approach to Abstract Expressionism, which led in 1961 to his first exhibition at the Nordness Gallery. The second phase of his career took place in Boston, where in 1963 he became professor of Art at the Massachusetts College of Art and taught studio art and the philosophy of art for the next 20 years. In Boston, Thornton's work took a sharp turn towards minimal and conceptual pictorial expression. While his forms grew linear and the references became figurative, the focus shifted on the structure, meanings and emotions associated to shapes and colors. Thornton has exhibited regularly since the early 1960's, notably at the ICA, Boston (1967) and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston (1970). In 1967 the curators of the Whitney Museum of American Art selected Thornton "Tree" series to be featured in the "Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American painting" - the exhibition that would later become the Whitney Biennale. John Thornton also exhibited at the Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA (1979) ; De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA (1987) ; New Bedford Art Museum, MA (2004).
“From his first body of Paintings in the early 1960’s, John Thornton has considered and employed the formal aesthetic concerns of color, line, form, space, and surface. But, over the course of his career to the present day, he has sought equally to create abstract art in which the viewer can perceive something of the artists’s personality. It is this quality that has always attracted and held Thornton’s attention to certain artists’s work, and one he deems essential for his own. Initially this may sound like a difficult feat to pull off effectively, but consider the value of how much can be determined about someone when listening to how he or she talks. Syntax, word choice, use of pauses, vocal inflection, expression and body language - all of these attendant elements of speech - provide an attentive listener with information that can deepen the meaning and view point of the speaker’s words. Learning something of an artists’s personality from viewing art, especially from a mode of artistic expression that may be challenging, is a parallel experience.” David B. Boyce