Thomas Downing

born Suffolk, VA 1928-died Provincetown, MA 1985
Media - portrait_image_114912.jpg - 90504
Thomas Downing and installation shots of his artwork, between 1978 and 1983. Unidentified photographer. Thomas Downing papers, courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Also known as
  • Tom Downing
Suffolk, Virginia, United States
Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States
Active in
  • Washington, District of Columbia, United States

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)


Media - 1977.48.5 - SAAM-1977.48.5_1 - 59312
Local Color: Washington Painting at Midcentury
July 3, 2008October 12, 2008
Explore the expressive possibilities of color in this special installation of twenty-seven large-scale paintings from the museum's permanent collection.