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Thomas Chimes: Adventures in 'Pataphysics

February 27 - May 6, 2007


About Thomas Chimes

Thomas Chimes, born to Greek immigrant parents in Philadelphia in 1921, is widely considered one of the city's most important living artists. In September 1939, Chimes enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied with Daniel Garber, Henry McCarter and Francis Speight. Financial difficulties disrupted Chimes's studies in December 1939, when he left the Academy to help his father start a new business venture in Alabama. The artist continued his education at the Art Students League in New York in 1941, but his studies were again cut short by events beyond his control, namely the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, which led him to enlist in the United States Army Air Force. Following the end of World War II, Chimes completed his education at the Art Students League, where he studied through the aid of the GI Bill with Reginald Marsh, Will Barnet, Vaclav Vytlacil, and John Hovannes.(right: Thomas Chimes (American, born 1921), Momo, 1965, Ink and wash on wove paper. 8 ? inches x 5 5/8 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Julius Bloch Memorial Fund created by Benjamin D. Bernstein, 2001 [2001-75-1].)

Chimes was deeply affected by seeing Picasso's Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946. Although he initially resisted its aggressive modernity, Chimes was nonetheless struck by the raw emotional impact of this monumental anti-war painting and thereafter began to take a strong interest in modern art. While a student at the Art Students League, Chimes became acquainted with contemporaries such as Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, George Constant and Tony Smith. Despite the appeal of this intellectually and artistically fertile environment, Chimes was wary of the intense pressure to join groups or adhere to the prevailing artistic climate, which at that time was dominated by the type of abstract painting championed by the prominent formalist art critic Clement Greenberg.

After a seven-month sojourn in Europe with his wife, Dawn, in 1952 -- viewing the Greek landscape and art of his forebears, meeting Alberto Giacometti in Paris, and visiting Henri Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary of the Dominican Nuns at Vence -- Chimes made a conscious decision to permanently settle in Philadelphia in 1953. The relative peace and seclusion of his home city allowed the artist to explore more deeply his own interests and preoccupations, away from the hectic, commercially driven art world of New York. It was here, over several decades of hermetic existence and devotion to his craft, that Chimes would develop a rich personal iconography drawing on childhood memories, dreams, and associations that were often inspired by reading the iconoclastic novels and plays of Alfred Jarry.

Chimes has had numerous solo exhibitions, including Thomas Chimes: A Retrospective Exhibition, at the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, in 1968; Tom Chimes, A Compendium: 1961-1986, at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia in 1986; and Thomas Chimes: Survey at the Alexander Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies, New York, in 1994. In 1975, his work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and in the following year he was represented in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's landmark exhibition Three Centuries of American Art. His work is included in many major American museum collections, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Delaware Art Museum; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


(above: Thomas Chimes (American, born 1921), Antonin Artaud, 1974. Oil on panel, 9 1/8 x 9 1/8 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the artist, 1975.)


(above: Thomas Chimes (American, born 1921), Oscar Wilde, 1975. Oil on panel, 11 x 9 1/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the artist, 1976.)


(above: Thomas Chimes (American, born 1921), Alfred Jarry, 1974, oil on panel. 17 3/4 inches x 14 3/4 inches x 1 3/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Adele Haas Turner and Beatrice Pastorius Turner Memorial Fund, 1975.)


(above: Thomas Chimes (American, born 1921), Rrose Sélavy, 1976. Oil on wood, 14 5/8 x 12 1/2 x 3/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Deborah J. Allen and Jukka Hamalainen, 1991.)


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