Dox Thrash’s Griffin Hills

Dox Thrash (1892-1965) painted “Griffin Hills” in 1940.[i] It is the first artwork by an African American ever to enter the permanent collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Dox Thrash, Griffin Hills, 1940. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Presented to The Baltimore Museum of Art, November 14, 1941, on behalf of the colored citizens of Baltimore, through offices of the Art Committee of the Women’s Cooperative Civic League of Baltimore. The following persons contributed to the gift: Willard W. Allen; William Anderson; Courtland L. Brown; Marse O. Calloway; Mrs. R. Garland Chissell; Dr. John R. Coasey; Coppin Teachers College, Demonstration School; William B. Dixon; Dr. Mason A. Hawkins; Dr. I. Bradshaw Higgins; Dr. D.O.W. Holmes; Dr. Robert L. Jackson; Mr. and Mrs. J. Logan Jenkins, Jr.; Dr. Y. Henderson Kerr; Mollie L. Killion; Edward S. Lewis; William H. McAbee; George W. McMechen; Dr. and Mrs. George B. Murphy; Marion S. Pollett; Furman L. Templeton; Rev. C.J. Trigg; Lillian H. Trusty; Dr. H. Maceo Williams; Dr. Isaac H. Young., BMA 1942.35. © Estate of Dox Thrash. Image used with permission of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Cabin Days

Dox Thrash, Cabin Days, 1938-1939. Carborundum Mezzotint. © Estate of Dox Thrash

Dox Thrash (1892-1965) painted “Griffin Hills” in 1940.1 It is the first artwork by an African American ever to enter the permanent collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The acquisition was organized by the Women’s Cooperative Civic League of Baltimore after a member of the group’s art committee saw the picture on display in a traveling exhibit.2 The painting depicts the rural Georgia landscape of Thrash’s childhood, a subject he tackled fairly often and always sympathetically, including in the print that he exhibited at the BMA in 1939 “Cabin Days”.

The particular circumstances and motivations behind the creation of “Griffin Hills” are unclear, although at the time of its making Thrash was gaining more recognition in Philadelphia and nationally. His portraits and portrayals of Southern Black life were especially well received by critics.

Thrash tends to be considered principally as a printmaker, although of his several solo exhibitions in the 1930s and 1940s at least one was devoted entirely to his watercolors – perhaps the same exhibit that brought “Griffin Hills” to the attention of the civic league.

Works Cited

[1] Curatorial File for 1942.35. Baltimore Museum of Art.

[2] Dox Thrash: Revealed. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001.

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