Tancredi et Erminia, 1965
Oil on canvas
48 x 60 inches
Signed and dated lower left; signed twice,
dated and titled on the verso
Exposed to the Fauves and German Expressionism through teachers at the University of Louisville, Thompson expanded his field of influences in the summer of 1958, when he was introduced to the figurative work of Red Grooms and Jan Muller in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and was encouraged by Muller’s wife to study the Old Masters. Throughout his oeuvre one can see the influence of Piero della Francesca, Poussin, Titian, Bosch, and Goya.
Unlike most African American artists, Thompson’s narratives did not flow from the black experience. Tancredi et Erminia is based on the historical figure Tancred, who was appointed regent of Antioch in 1100 AD and who subsequently became a popular character in poems, plays, operas, and paintings. Thompson’s painting features two of his signature images: women and horses. He appears to rhyme the elegant contours of the horses with the curves of human figures to create compositional harmony. Even if the viewer is unfamiliar with Erminia’s plight of unrequited love, Thompson’s handling of color communicates the drama of the scene.