Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Thomas Downing Portrait

Thomas Downing

Also Known as: Tom Downing

Suffolk, Virginia 1928

Provincetown, Massachusetts 1985

Active in:

  • Washington, District of Columbia

Photo Caption:
Thomas Downing and installation shots of his artwork, between 1978 and 1983. Unidentified photographer. Thomas Downing papers, courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Biography

Thomas Downing received his BA in 1948 from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and then moved to New York City to study at the Pratt Institute for two years. A grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts provided him an opportunity to study in Europe at the Académie Julian in Paris. Downing moved to Washington, DC, in the 1950s and studied under Kenneth Noland, one of the founding members of the Washington Color School, an association of the city's Color Field painters. Downing shared studio space with fellow Color Field artist Howard Mehring, and by the late 1950s was "trying everything." Beginning in 1965, Downing taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design for three years, where his ideas helped influence the next generation of Color School painters, including Sam Gilliam. (Jean Lawlor Cohen, "Washington Art History Part Two: The Making of the Color School Stars," Museum & Arts Washington, November/December 1988)