Theme/Style – Modernism, landscapes, townscapes, still life
Media – Oils, watercolors, pastels, charcoal
Artistic Focus – Thomas Flavell was an energetic and active member of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania art community throughout the 1930s and 1940s, making a thoroughly original and unique contribution to his milieu through his jewel-like, intense landscapes in oil and pastel. Depicting rural scenes as well as old Philadelphia neighborhoods, Flavell’s renderings often evoked what one critic described as “a moody inanimate world” that was “unusually quiet,” and yet vibrating with life from within its dark shadows and geometric compositions.
Career Highlights –
- Thomas Flavell was born in 1906 in Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. He studied in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Graphic Sketch Club, and under Grace Thorpe Gemberling; and while still an art student in 1932, he had a show of his charcoal drawings at the Warwick Galleries, receiving a favorable review in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Flavell worked as an artist for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and then the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and throughout the 1930s and early 1940s his work traveled extensively in WPA exhibitions to cities throughout the eastern and southern United States.
- Around 1934 one of Flavell’s oil paintings was among those exhibited at the White House under PWAP, and received special recognition by President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt; and one of his pastels was chosen by them to hang in the White House and remain in its permanent collection.
- Following the White House exhibition, the PWAP works were shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and another of Flavell’s artworks was selected for the Museum’s permanent collection.
- Later in 1934 Flavell was included in New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art’s second regional exhibition of American painting, featuring Philadelphia artists.
- In 1936 Flavell was included in the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s “New Horizons in American Art,” a comprehensive exhibition of work done under the Federal Art Project of the WPA during the past year. The show featured three of Flavell’s pastels, and his pastel entitled “The Station” was illustrated in the show’s catalog.
- Later that year, Flavell was included in a show spanning the history of American paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and he also had one of his first solo shows at the Gimbel Galleries of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Here, his painting “White Barn” was shown, along with 13 other landscapes in pastel.
- Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s Flavell exhibited frequently in Philadelphia, continuing to show work at Gimbel Galleries of Contemporary Art, and also at the Art Alliance, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and the annual Philadelphia artists’ exhibitions at the Friends’ Central School.
- His work was also exhibited in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Woodmere Gallery in Chestnut Hill, in New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and in Washington, DC at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
- Besides the institutions mentioned above, Flavell’s work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, among others.
- Flavell also worked as a decorator at Philadelphia’s Snellenburg’s department store for 22 years, during the 1940s and 1950s. He passed away at his home in Flourtown, Pennsylvania in 1975.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.