Georgia Museum of Art

University of Georgia

Athens, GA



William J. Thompson: A Spiritual Journey


The Georgia Museum of Art will present "William J. Thompson: A Spiritual Journey," from May 27 through August 20, 2000, in the Philip Henry Alston, Jr. Gallery.

"William J. Thompson: A Spiritual Journey" is a re-analysis of the traveling exhibition "Going to the Source: The Work of William J. Thompson, organized by the Georgia Museum of Art and Jean Westmacott, director of Brenau University Galleries in Gainesville, Georgia. it has toured extensively throughout Georgia over the past three years. (left: Habakkuk, 1990-91, terracotta, Collection of Claire Thompson)

The late William J. Thompson, a renowned sculptor and printmaker, was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1926 to a deeply Catholic family. His interest in art was piqued early, and it was intensified during a convalescence from scarlet fever at the age of 14, when he was given a book about Michelangelo. With support from his mother and an older cousin, he studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design, interrupting his studies to serve in the Army in 1946. He returned to school afterward and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan in 1352. In addition to Michelangelo, Thompson was influenced by such masters as Auguste Rodin, Georges Rouault, Ernst Barlach, and Jacob Epstein.

In 1964, Thompson joined the staff of the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia at the invitation of then-professor and director Lamar Dodd. He became a professor emeritus at the university upon his retirement in 1983. The school's sculpture studio was named in Thompson's honor. He was a member of the Southern Association of Sculptors in Columbia, South Carolina, and was elected to associate member status in the National Academy of Design in 1977 and elevated to the status of academician in 1993. He used a wide array of media for his art, including such traditional materials as stone, wood, and bronze, as well as more experimental media like polyester resins. Due in part to his expert use of so many different materials, Thompson won an honorable mention From juror Max Weber in the Rhode Island Artist Annual exhibition in 1949, merit awards at a series of Callaway Gardens sculpture exhibitions from 1966-69, purchase awards throughout the Southeast in the mid-1960s, and notably the Albert Christ-Janet Award for Creativity in Research in 1982.

Perhaps Thompson's best known work is the Andersonville Memorial, a nine-foot-high bronze sculpture that stands on the grounds of a prisoner-of-war camp, now Andersonville National Park. The sculpture was commissioned by the Georgia Natural Resources Commission to commemorate lost prisoners of all American wars, including the Civil War. Thompson's sculptures have become an enduring part of Georgia's culture: he executed bronze portraits of such University of Georgia notables as Lamar Dodd, ecologist Eugene P. Odum, and tennis coach Dan Magill, as well as of Georgia senator Richard B. Russell, whose 14-foot bronze sculpture still stands in Atlanta on the State House grounds, philanthropist Robert W. Woodruff for the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, and others. Thompson's work is found in church and private collections worldwide, as well as in the collections of the Georgia Power Company, the Georgia Art Commission, the Columbus Museum of Fine Arts in Ohio, and others. He died in Athens, Georgia, on July 13, 1995.

The exhibition in Athens is generously sponsored by Director's Circle members Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Myrtle, Mr. and Mrs. Rowland A. Radford, Jr·, Drs. Norman J. and Margaret C. Wood, and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Loef.

Read more about the Georgia Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 2/28/11

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