Bob Thompson

Triumph of Bacchus
1964

On view
Floor 8

This painting depicts a jubilant procession in honor of Bacchus, the pagan god of wine, shown here as a yellow silhouette surrounded by celebratory attendants, including satyrs, nymphs, and fantastical animals. Bob Thompson used flat, bold, unmodulated colors to render this bacchanalia, in which humans, gods, and creatures interlock in a dense, dynamic surface that discourages focus on any one part. Thompson’s subject matter was often based on Greek and Roman mythology as well as the religious themes of Renaissance masters. Yet Thompson eradicates the precise representational detail and compositional order of Renaissance art, instead creating a shallow, compressed space that calls attention to the picture plane. The flattened forms and silhouettes evoke the undulating rhythms and syncopated movement found in jazz music, which Thompson deeply admired, and create an abstracted, dreamlike atmosphere that renders place and time indistinct.

Artist
Bob Thompson

Title
Triumph of Bacchus

Date
1964

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Oil on canvas

Dimensions
Overall: 60 1/4 × 72 1/8 in. (153 × 183.2 cm)

Accession number
98.19

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee and The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund

Rights and reproductions information
© Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY


Audio

  • Spilling Over, Spanish

    Triumph of Bacchus, 1964

    Triumph of Bacchus, 1964

    0:00

    Narrador: Triumph of Bacchus, de Bob Thompson, se basa, a grandes rasgos, en una obra de Tiziano, pintor renacentista. Baco—la figura amarilla sostenida por la gran forma que parecería ser parte ave y parte trono—descansa tranquilo en el centro del grupo. Thompson, cuyas formas se inspiraron en pintores clásicos renacentistas, como Piero della Francesca, desarrolló esta composición partiendo de las siluetas de figuras.

    Stanley Crouch: Su compromiso con estas siluetas es muy importante porque considero que eso era parte de la libertad que buscaba.

    Narrador: Stanley Crouch escribió un ensayo acerca de Thompson, donde exploró las intersecciones entre la historia del arte, el jazz y la experiencia de los afroamericanos en esta pintura.

    Stanley Crouch: Es decir, que si se utilizan siluetas en colores muy brillantes, no son negras necesariamente porque sus rasgos se tornan secundarios con respecto a su forma. Creo que eso es parte del intento de Thompson por alcanzar lo universal. En otras palabras, parte de lo que Thompson está diciendo es que, a fin de cuentas, todo es geometría. Nadie podrá decir nunca que, debido a mi raza, no le gusto a la geometría. Creo que para él, eso era importante: que hay ciertas cosas que trascienden todas las convenciones y los defectos de nuestra sociedad.

    Narrador: Las pinturas de Thompson eran a menudo alegorías que celebraban a músicos de jazz contemporáneos, como Nina Simone y Ornette Coleman. En esta obra se enfocó en una figura clásica, que representa el espíritu de la improvisación, el cual también se relaciona con el jazz libre. Baco era el dios griego del vino, la locura y el éxtasis divino.

  • Spilling Over

    Triumph of Bacchus, 1964

    Triumph of Bacchus, 1964

    0:00

    Narrator: Bob Thompson’s Triumph of Bacchus is loosely based on a work by the Renaissance painter Titian. Bacchus—the yellow figure borne aloft by the large form that seems part bird, part throne—rests calmly at the center of the group. Thompson, whose forms were inspired by classical Renaissance artists such as Piero della Francesca, built this composition out of silhouetted figures. 

    Stanley Crouch: His commitment to these silhouettes is very important, because I think that that was part of the freedom that he was searching for.

    Narrator: Stanley Crouch has written an essay on Thompson, exploring the intersections of art history, jazz, and Black American experience in his painting. 

    Stanley Crouch: That is, that if you use silhouettes and you use them with very bright colors, they're not black, not necessarily, because you make their features secondary to their form. That, I think, is part of Thompson's attempt to achieve the universal. That is, that part of what he's saying is that it's all geometry, anyway. No one can ever say that, because of my race, geometry does not like me. Because that to him I think was important, is that there are certain things that transcend all of our social conventions and social shortcomings.

    Narrator: Thompson’s paintings were often allegories celebrating contemporary jazz musicians like Nina Simone and Ornette Coleman. He focuses here on a classical figure, but one who embodies a spirit of improvisation that might also be found in free jazz: Bacchus was the Greek god of wine, madness, and divine ecstasy.



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