In this work depicting a rural farm scene, Thrash intentionally obscures fine detail. The subject is, in fact, a memory of his youth and his family’s sharecropper farm near Griffin, Georgia.
Thrash left his native town of Griffin, Georgia, at the age of fifteen, in search of work to support his family. He first pursued art education through correspondence courses. By 1914, he had moved to Chicago and was enrolled in night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. His studies were interrupted in 1917 when he enlisted in the US Army during WWI; he served for one year with the Buffalo Soldiers before he was wounded and returned to his studies full time at the Art Institute in 1919.
After graduating in 1923, he settled in Philadelphia in 1926. He worked in a print shop, designing logos and posters. His prints began to earn public recognition and inclusion in important local exhibitions in the early 1930s.
In 1937, Thrash became one of the few Black artists appointed to oversee a regional division for the Federal Art Project in the 1930s. During his time with the FAP, Thrash was instrumental in the development of a new printmaking process. He and his colleagues devised a new intaglio process, which resulted in more durable plate surfaces but required less time and effort to produce than traditional methods.
The new carborundum mezzotint printmaking process also allowed for greater tonal variation and softer, more expressive hues. Thrash’s career and groundbreaking printing technique also significantly influenced the work of later Black artists such as Charles White, Raymond Steth, and Elizabeth Catlett.
Thrash’s work Georgia Cotton Crop will be on view at the High in Our Good Earth: Rural Life and American Art (April 17–August 1, 2021), an exhibition exploring the many ways in which Americans imagined and engaged with life beyond the city limits. The show brings together works by artists ranging from Winslow Homer and Rhonda Nicholls in the nineteenth century to Thomas Hart Benton, Marion Greenwood, Clarence John Laughlin, Lewis Hine, and Andrew Wyeth in the twentieth century.
This is just one of over eighteen thousand artworks in the High’s collection. It’s all here for you!