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June 12, 2015


Filed under: tom downing,washington color school — Tags: , — jherzlinger @ 7:37 am

I am always on the hunt for artists I am not familiar with and schools of thought that I don’t know.  So my interest lead me to THE WASHINGTON COLOR SCHOOL.  Some of America’s top artists have emerged from this school, totally un-benounced to me. So today’s post is a bit about the school and about one of it’s artists.

I have always loved this type of painting, as those of you that read my blogs, have come to learn.  So once again, we could say that a child is capable, but really not.

Enjoy! Much Love,


People often portray Washington, D.C., as a city full of straight-laced politicos bustling from Capitol Hill to the Beltway and back again. As true as that stereotype might be, the District played the stage for one of the greatest post-World War II art movements in the U.S.

Oversize vibrant canvases characterize the work of the Washington Color School,

an offshoot of the nationwide Color Field movement. Color field painting is defined by expanses of color close in tonal value and intensity, large presentations and simple compositions. Color is the subject matter, and simple colors, geometric forms and compositions are arranged to make the viewer feel implied emotions without them being explicitly

displayed, according to art historian David Anfam in Oxford Art Online.


The movement began in 1965 when the “Washington Color Painters” exhibit opened at the now-defunct Washington Gallery of Modern Art and continued to flourish through the early ‘70s. The painters featured in this exhibit, and those considered to be the heart of the Washington Color School, included Morris Louis, Tom Downing, Gene Davis,

Paul Reed, Howard Mehring and Kenneth Noland.


Though the heyday of the Washington Color School has come and gone, the movement left an indelible mark on the D.C. art scene. Noland taught at Catholic University’s art department, and Gilliam actually taught art in the D.C. public school system. Much of the art coming from D.C. since the 1960s has felt the Color School’s influence,

and the movement maintains its status as the only school to come out of Washington.

Tom Downing’s paintings to a large extent consisted of circles arranged in precise patterns on the canvas, with colors often chosen according to ideas of symmetry. Downing’s Spot Paintings are his best known works. There is however, not much written about this artist in the context of his own work, however you will recognize the images.


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