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Thornton Dial


Thornton  Dial





Born: 1928
Died: 2016



Thornton Dial, a self-taught artist born in Emelle, Alabama, began painting after his retirement. "I didn't have no real job, so I made a job making art." After his family laughed at his paintings, he buried them and created many of his works in secrecy.

Dial's work is more complex and sophisticated than the naive style so often associated with outsider art. Some of his works often incorporate materials such as rugs matted with paint, furniture and sculptural objects. Dial first came into the spotlight after being discovered and promoted by folk art collector Bill Arnett. Now Dial's work is stretching the borders of both folk art and modern art.

Not long ago, Dial was unaware of the formal meaning of art; yet, he recently stated in an interview, "Art ain't about paint. It ain't about canvas. It's about ideas. I have found how to get my ideas out and I won't stop. I got ten thousand left."
















Curriculum Vitae


Thornton Dial: Daybreak. Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta (*with works by Dial family members)


Seismic Shifts: Ten Visionaries in Contemporary Art and Architecture. National Academy Museum & School, New York, NY

2012 - 2013

Thoughts on Paper. Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC, Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (solo)

2011 - 2013

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial. Indianapolis Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (solo)


Thornton Dial: Viewpoint of the Foundry Man, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Thornton Dial, Virginia Union University and Art Gallery, Richmond, VA (solo)


Thornton Dial and Lizzi Bougatsos, James Fuentes, New York, NY


The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN


Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial. The Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville, TN


The Armory Show, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY


Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Disaster Areas, Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA (solo)


Thornton Dial in the 21st Century, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (solo)

2002 - 2004

In the Spirit of Martin, Smithsonian Institution, traveling


Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY


Thornton Dial: His Spoken Dreams, Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century: An American Anthology, Philadelphia Museum, PA


Thornton Dial: Image of the Tiger. New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; American Folk Art Museum, New York; Milwaukee Art Museum, WI (solo)


Thornton Dial: Works on Paper, Luise Ross Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Thornton Dial, Sr.: Works on Paper, Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Thornton Dial: Strategy of the World. Southern Queens Park Association/African-American Hall of Fame, Jamaica, NY (solo)


Thornton Dial. Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA (solo)


Dial: Ladies of the United States. Library Art Gallery, Kennesaw State College, Marietta, GA (solo)




New York Times



Associated News

November 03, 2012
Through March 03, 2013

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial is the most extensive survey of Thornton Dial's art ever mounted. Depicting the tragedies and triumphs of humanity, he moves the discourse of contemporary art-making into new territory and offers an unflinching vision of the world that invites us to examine even our hardest truths.

February 17, 2011
New York Times


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An important source for Contemporary American and European Post-War Art; Skot Foreman gallery inventory consists of paintings, works on paper, sculpture, and limited-edition prints by artists such as Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Howard Finster, Tom Wesselmann and Purvis Young (Estate)

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