Black Artists in History: Thomas Sills

Thomas Sills (b. 1914 – 2000) is an abstract expressionist painter based in New York who grew into recognition from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Throughout his career he became friends with several other well-known abstract painters, such as Mark Rothko, William de Kooning, and Barnett Newman. Sharing a philosophy similar to de Kooning, for Sills art was purely a form of expression and did not have to be explained.

Sills received no formal art training. I believe that to be one of the reasons his artistic voice was so unique in the New York art scene. His use of color and the non-representational approach to his work allowed him stand amongst the other leaders in the abstract expressionist movement as well as in African American art in general. He found himself inspired by the art collection and mosaics owned by his wife, mosaicist Jeanne Reynal. He also felt a connection with primitive art such as the sculptures, frescos, and architecture of Chiapas and the Yucatan in Mexico.

**My thoughts: I’m not going to lie here, abstract expressionism is very hit or miss with me. But I have to admit, there is something authentic about the work that Thomas Sills was able to produce. Even if we may not be able to decipher any meaning from his pieces for ourselves, there’s no denying that his paintings are deliberate  and speak something from his heart.

Sources:, wikipedia

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