Bob Thompson and the 1960s New York Art Scene

Bob Thompson, Tribute to an American Indian, gouache, pastel and pencil on printed paper, 1963.

Bob Thompson stood apart from most of his contemporaries in the early 1960s. On one hand, he was the epitome of a New York bohemian artist working in a Clinton Street studio with no heat or hot water; on the other, he was a figurative painter inspired more by the traditions of historical paintings found in museums than the newness of pop culture.

In 1960, Thompson was very much a part of the avant-garde art community as a participant in some of the earliest happenings, and a close follower of the downtown jazz scene. He was one of the regular artists who went to the Five Spot, and his friendship with jazz musician and composer Ornette Coleman is well-documented. Thompson also included his favorite musicians like Coleman, Charlie Haden, Nina Simone and Steve Lacy in his paintings, which can be viewed in the June 24 2010 sale, Out of the Blue: Modern Art & Jazz.

Bob Thompson, Steve Lacy, pen and ink on wove paper, circa 1959-60.