Dox thrash 1893-1965

I got some of the carborundum powder they used in grinding lithograph stones and rubbed it into a copper plate with an old flatiron. I got a queer rough surface. Well, this fellow Mesibov looks over my shoulder, and says, 'Hey, I bet you could work lines in that.' I took a burnisher (a knife-like tool) and sketched a nude.

Although he worked in a variety of media, Dox Thrash is best remembered as a print maker. Thrash was born in a former slave cabin in Griffin, Georgia in 1893. He studied art through correspondence school until 1909 when he moved to Chicago. He began taking part time classes at the Art Institute and also studied privately with William E. Scott. He resumed full time studies after serving in World War I.

Cabin Days, c. 1938-39; carborundum mezzotint,4-3/8 x 4-1/2 inches, signed

Thrash lived an itinerant lifestyle in Boston, Connecticut, and New York, working odd jobs and painting. Eventually, in 1926, he settled in Philadelphia where he studied at the Philadelphia Sketch Club with Earl Hortor. Thrash began experimenting with the aquatint process in the early 1930’s and is credited with later inventing the process of carborundum printing, known as cartograph, with fellow students Hugh Mesibov and Michael Gallagher. He made his debut as an artist in 1931 at the Catherine Street YWCA in Philadelphia, which featured an exhibition of his oil and watercolor paintings. In 1933, his first exhibition of prints was held at the same location.

Charlotte,1938; carborundum mezzotint, 9 x 7 inches, signed, titled.

In 1937, Dox Thrash joined the Federal Arts Project as a printmaker and worked for Philadelphia’s Fine Print Workshop Division producing portraits and urban and rural scenes related to African-American life. During World War II, he created a series of prints with a patriotic focus. He remained a prominent artist in Philadelphia until his death in 1965.

Life, c. 1940s; carborundum mezzotint, 11” x 8-3/4”, signed


1940 Exhibition of the Art of the American Negro (1851-1940), Tanner Art Galleries, Chicago, IL

1941 We Too Look at America: A National Exhibition of Negro Art, South Side Community Art Center, Chicago, IL

1942 Exhibition of Graphic Arts by Dox Thrash, Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

1942 American Negro Art, 19th and 20th Centuries, Downtown Gallery, NY

1944 Dox Thrash (solo), Philadelphia Art Alliance, PA

1945 Dox Thrash (solo), Pyramid Club, Philadelphia, PA

1945 The Negro Artist Comes of Age: A National Survey of Contemporary American Artists, Albany Institute of History and Art, NY

1948 Dox Thrash: Carborundum Prints, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

1969 Afro-American Artists, 1800-1969, School District and Museum of the Philadelphia Civic Center, PA

1970 Dox Thrash (solo), James A. Porter Gallery, Washington D.C.

1978 WPA and the Black Artist: Chicago and New York, Chicago Public Library, IL

1987 The Prints of Dox Thrash, Print and Picture Department, Free Library of Philadelphia, PA

1989 Dox Thrash (solo), Dolan/Maxwell Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

1989 Black Printmakers and the WPA, Lehman College Art Gallery, CUNY, Bronx, NY

1995 Dox Thrash (solo), National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.

2002 Dox Thrash: An African-American Master Printmaker Rediscovered, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA

2002 An American Legacy: African American Printmakers, Tompkins Gallery, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA

2003 From Challenge to Triumph: African American Prints & Printmaking, 1867-2002, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art, Brooklyn, NY

2003 A Century of Collecting: African American Art in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

2005 African American Art: Selections from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), St. Louis Art Museum, MO

2015 Represent: 200 Years of African American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA

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