A Finding Aid to the Bob Thompson Papers, 1949-2005, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.thombob
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.thombob
Creators:
Thompson, Bob, 1937-1966
Dates:
1949-2005
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
2 linear feet
Repository:
Archives of American Art
The papers of New York African American figurative painter Bob Thompson measure 2 linear feet and date from 1949 to 2005. The collection includes biographical material, videocassettes, correspondence, writings by Bob Thompson and others, exhibition files, scattered personal business records, printed material, photographs, and photograph albums. The correspondence is mostly between Carol Thompson, the artist's wife, and others concerning Bob Thompson's artwork.

Scope and Contents note
Scope and Contents note
The papers of New York African American figurative painter Bob Thompson measure 2 linear feet and date from 1949 to 2005. The collection includes biographical material, videocassettes, correspondence, writings by Bob Thompson and others, exhibition files, scattered personal business records, printed material, photographs, and photograph albums. The correspondence is mostly between Carol Thompson, the artist's wife, and others concerning Bob Thompson's artwork.
Biographical material includes certificates, school memorabilia, biographical chronologies, a memorial program and obituaries, and a transcript of “Bob Thompson: His Life and Friendships” panel discussion with several notable artists commenting on Thompson. There is also a video recording copy of a 1965 film by Dorothy Levitt Beskind titled
Bob Thompson Happening
which was made to accompany a 1999 exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art.
Carol Thompson's correspondence is with various galleries, dealers, and friends primarily concerning Bob Thompson's artwork and posthumous exhibitions. There is correspondence with art historian Judith Wilson, the artist's mother Bessie Thompson, David Anderson Gallery, and Donald Morris Gallery.
Writings by Bob Thompson include church speeches, a letter to the editor of
Louisville Courier Journal
, a poem, and an artist statement. There are also writings about Thompson by others, including his mother Bessie Thompson, wife Carol Thompson, and artists and friends, including Margaret Bridwell, Dario Covi, Carl Crodel, Emilio Cruz, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones, Mary H. Martin, Mary Spencer May, Carter Ratcliff, Meyer Schapiro, A. B. Spellman, Ulfert Wilke, and Ken Young. The writings by friends are mostly in the form of recollections by friends that were gathered as a memorial tribute to Thompson.
Exhibition files consist of material related to posthumous group and solo exhibitions of Bob Thompson's work.
The majority of the personal business records are posthumous and include inventories, loan and consignment forms, sales and appraisal records, and scattered correspondence.
Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, magazine and newspaper clippings about Bob Thompson, blank postcards of artwork, posters, and press releases.
There are photographs of Bob Thompson, family, and friends, including many artists, shot in various locations in New York City and Provincetown, as well as in Spain, France, and Italy. There are images of Thompson's Rivington Street studio, the Billiard Palace and the Slugs Jazz Club in New York City, exhibitions, events, street scenes, and artwork. There are four photographs albums, one of the Thompson's wedding, two of exhibitions (one is disbound), and one personal album with many photographs of friends and family, including the artist’s mother Bessie Thompson and wife Carol Thompson.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1953-2003 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 2: Carol Thompson's Correspondence, 1971-2000 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, 1949-1998 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 4: Exhibition Files, 1978-2001 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 5: Personal Business Records, 1965-2001 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1960-2005 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, 4, OV 5)
Series 7: Photographs, 1951-2000 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 2-4)

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Bob Thompson (1937-1966) was an African American figurative painter who worked primarily in New York City.
Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937. He attended Boston University as a pre-med student, but quit the program and returned to Kentucky to attend the University of Louisville and study painting under German expressionist artist Ulfert Wilke. As a student, he spent a summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts and immersed himself in the art communities there. In 1958, Thompson moved to New York City and reunited with several artists he had met in Provincetown and participated in some of the earliest "happenings," somewhat informal art events or gatherings usually involving performance art and music, in 1960. He became a regular at the jazz clubs The Five Spot and Slugs and became friends with several jazz musicians. Many of Thompson's paintings reflect his interest in jazz. He also formed friendships with writers Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones. In 1960, he had his first solo exhibition at the Delancy Street Museum.
The same year as his first solo exhibition, Thompson married Carol Plenda and the couple lived in Paris from 1961-1962 after he received a Whitney Foundation fellowship. They lived in Ibiza, Spain the following year. Thompson painted prolifically while abroad, and when he returned to New York City in 1963, he brought many paintings with him. He quickly found representation by Martha Jackson Gallery and the gallery featured Thompson's work in solo exhibitions in 1963-1965. His reputation grew and more exhibitions across the country followed.
In late 1965, Thompson and his wife traveled to Rome, Italy, where he continued to study art and paint. Thompson died in Rome in 1966 at the age of 28 from a drug overdose not long after receiving gall bladder surgery.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies note
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2017 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include blank pages, blank versos of of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.
Additional digital content, such as digital user copies of sound and video recordings, may also be available for use at Archives of American Art offices.
Processing Information note
The papers were initially organized by Carol Thompson, Bob Thompson's wife. Upon arrival at the Archives, the collection was processed to a minimal level, and a finding aid was prepared by intern Kimberley Henze in 2015. The collection was fully processed and prepared for digitization by Rihoko Ueno in 2017 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Kimberley Henze and Rihoko Ueno
Sponsor
Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
The collection was donated by Elaine Plenda, the artist's sister-in-law, in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation note
Bob Thompson papers, 1949-2005. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Use note
The Bob Thompson papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. The "Bob Thompson Happening" videocassettes are available for on-site research only and permission for reproduction must be made to Joanna Elkin, the daughter of the filmmaker.
Conditions Governing Access note
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of video recording requires advance notice. Contact Reference Services for more information.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Baraka, Amiri, 1934-2014 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Beskind, Dorothy Levitt Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Billiard Place. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridwell, Margaret Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Covi, Dario A. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Crodel, Charles, 1894-1973 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cruz, Emilio, 1938- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
David Anerson Gallery. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Donald Morris Gallery. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Martin, Mary, 1913- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
May, Mary Spencer Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ratcliff, Carter Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Schapiro, Meyer, 1904- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sluggs Jazz Club. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Spellman, A. B., 1935- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
The Billard Palace. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Thompson, Bessie Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Thompson, Carol Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Whitney Museum of American Art. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wilke, Ulfert, 1907-1987 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wilson, Judith, 1952- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Young, Kenneth, 1933- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists' studios--Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters--New York (State)--New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video recordings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C., 20001
Phone: 202-633-7950
http://www.aaa.si.edu/askus