Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Mildred Thompson (1936–2003), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.
1. Citizen of the World
After graduating from Washington, D.C.’s Howard University in 1957, Thompson spent most of the 1960s and ’70s in Germany to escape the discrimination she faced in the United States, but she never forgot her roots. “I don’t really consider anyplace home…But when I’m asked where I’m from, I’m always from Jacksonville, [Florida].”
2. Taking Chances
In 1979, while living in Washington, D.C., Thompson met a French filmmaker and joined the crew as a photographer. They traveled to Paris, which remained her home base until she returned to the U.S. in 1985. She lived briefly in Los Angeles before settling in Atlanta for the rest of her life.
3. Hopelessly Devoted
In the middle of her career, Thompson decided to produce only abstract art—in paintings, sculptures, or prints—going forward. Her dedication to abstraction and her choice not to reference politics, violence, or the Black experience challenged expectations of African American artists at the time.
Thompson did not sketch or pre-plan her works. However, she did select palettes that would run throughout a series. As she once said, “Magnetic fields are yellow. Radiation is blue.”
5. It’s About Time
In 2017, 14 years after the artist’s death, Galerie Lelong & Co. of New York announced their representation of Thompson’s estate. This marks her first formal relationship with a gallery.