Location: Bowdoin / Thomas Cornell

Visual Arts

Thomas Cornell

Richard E. Steele Artist in Residence Emeritus

tom cornell


  • Amherst College, B.A., 1959
  • Yale University School of Art and Architecture, 1959-60

As Artist in Residence, my work continues to celebrate authentic passion and help create an accessible narrative to guide culture.  World culture is facing crisis including inequality, pollution, food poison, and climate change, wherein personal faith and personal meaning must be subordinate to moral realism  – an impartial, social point of view.  Given this global ecological crisis, art can seductively  “show” the necessity of protecting the life of the planet and species adaption to the environment  - the necessity of justly regulating biological evolution to minimize suffering and maximize well-being.   Artists, as cultural doctors, can “show” that social justice necessitates an earth-wide civic religion that transcends theism and atheism - to achieve the new ecological order and moral beauty.


Thomas Cornell was brought to Bowdoin to establish a visual arts program that provides a solid foundation in perceptual drawing and painting.  Known in his early career for his drawings and etchings, he has focused on painting since the 1970s.  His first publication, The Monkey, examined the process of evolution.  His next publication by the Gehenna Press was The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf, including twenty-one portraits of French revolutionary figures.  In the 1960's, he established the Tragos Press, and the first editions focused on Frederick Douglass and Bayard Rustin,  Responding to the Vietnam War, Cornell painted a triptych, The Dance of Death, in 1969.  In the 1970s, he returned to the exploration of images of nature, using them to address modern social and environmental ethical concerns.  In this spirit, he began painting perceptual landscapes in specific Maine settings as well as a series of paintings on The Birth of Nature.  Cornell has accepted occasional portrait commissions and a commission to paint four large pictures, The Four Ages, for the John Hancock Life Insurance Company.  In 1987, he began his Bathers series composed of large figurative paintings presenting the human potential for living in harmony with others and with nature.  These images seek to depict people interacting without the inhibiting stereotypes of age, gender, class or race, and particularly show men tenderly caring for young children, a theme rarely found in Western art.  Cornell works to make images that can model the positive changes that may develop in human conduct through the accurate perception of nature and humanity.

A graduate of Amherst College, Cornell studied for a year at Yale School of Art and Architecture.  In addition to Bowdoin, he has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and at Princeton University.  He has received many awards, including a Fulbright Grant, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Fellowship in 1966.  He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1983.  His work is present in art books, most notably Rizzoli's Post-Modernism, The New Classicism in Art and Architecture by Charles Jencks.  He has had five one-man exhibitions in New York City and seven major museum exhibitons, including a Bowdoin College Museum of Art exhibition in 1990, with a catalogue essay by Martica Sawin.

1997    G.W. Einstein Company, NYC
1990    Bowdoin College Museum of Art, ME
1989    G.W. Einstein Company, NYC
1986    G.W. Einstein Company, NYC
1981    A.M. Sachs Gallery, NYC
1980    Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA
1979    A.M. Sachs Gallery, NYC
1977    Barridoff Galleries, Portland, ME
1976    Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA
1971    Bowdoin College Museum of Art, ME
          Princeton University, NJ
1965    Yale University Library (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library), CT

178th Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, NYC
Group Shows, Potter & Slack Fine Art, Marbledale, CT
The Spirit of New England, Potter & Slack Fine Art, Marbledale CT
The Perception of Appearances: A Decade of American Contemporary Figurative Drawing, Frye Art Museum, Seattle WA
The Pervasive, yet Elusive, Dionysos, Bowdoin College Museum, Brunswick ME
176th Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, NYC
Focus on the Collection:  Recent Acquisitions, Paul Creative Arts Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Eighteen Alumni Artists, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst MA
Notations of Color:  Oil Sketching in Maine, Bates College, Maine
172nd Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, NYC
Group Exhibition, G.W. Einstein Co., NYC
171st Annual Exhibition (juried), National Academy of Design, NYC
Context Considered, Perspectives of American Art, Bowdoin College Museum, Brunswick ME
Maine Artists, The Blaine House, Augusta ME
Group Show, J.S. Ames Fine Art, Belfast ME
Flora, Fauna, & Firearms, G.W. Einstein Co., NYC
Director's Choice, The Arkansas Arts Center, AR (Townsend Wolff)
Town and Country, curated by The Museum of Modern Art, General Electric, N.Y.
Portraits:  Artist and Sitter; Selections from the Burk Collection, University of Southern Maine Art Gallery, Gorham ME
Group Show, G.W. Einstein Co., N.Y.C.
Men Working, curated by Charles Parness at G.W. Einstein Co., N.Y.C.
168th Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, NYC
Anniversary Exhibition, Portland Museum of Art, July 25 - October,
(including the inaugural exhibition of Four Ages commissioned and donated by John Hancock Corporation)
American Works on Paper, G.W. Einstein Co., N.Y.C.
Expedition Maine, Sherry French Gallery (NYC), Tenant's Harbor, ME
Pertinent Dissimilarities: The Figure, Webster University, St. Louis, MO
Art of Maine: A Bounty of Woods and Water, The Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, NJ
Personal Choices: An Invitational Exhibition, G.W. Einstein Co., NYC
Against the Grain 1960 - 1990: Images in American Art, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, PA
The 166th Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, NYC
New Work, G.W. Einstein Co., NYC
Selections from the Reed College Art Collection, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Portland, OR
Artists' Gardens, Noyes Museum, Oceanville, NJ
Preparatory Drawings, The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR
The Modern Pastoral, Robert Schoelkopf Gallery Ltd., NY
Self Portraits, John Szoke Gallery, NY
The Landscape Observed, Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, MD
American Painting After the Death of Painting, Kuznetsky Most, Moscow USSR (First Group Exhibition of American Art in the Soviet Union, curated by Donald Kuspit in association with the U.S.S.R. Artists Union)
Coming of Age:  Twenty One Years of Collecting, Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
The Figure, The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR (catalogue essay by Townsend Wolfe)
The Face of the Land, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, PA
Utopian Visions, curated by The Museum of Modern Art, Pfizer Inc., NY
Studied From Life: Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, Bayly Art Museum at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Utopian Visions, curated by the Museum of Modern Art, American Express, NY
Painting Exhibition, G. W. Einstein Co., NY
Aspects of Contemporary Realism, Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC
Contemporary Still Life Painting, Robert Schoelkopf Gallery Ltd., NY
Twentieth Century American Drawings - The Figure in Context, International Exhibition Foundation Traveling Exhibition
Contemporary Painting, Robert Schoelkopf Gallery Ltd., NY
46th Annual Midyear Show, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
Out of New York, Root Art Center, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY
Invitational Group Exhibitions, Artists' Choice Museum, Dintenfass Gallery, New York
Great Portrait Drawings, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
Toward a Revival of Classicism II, Tatistcheff &  Company, NY
Figures, University of Maine, Augusta
Group Exhibition, The Thomas H. Bayly Memorial Building, University of Virginia Art Museum
30 Years of American Printmaking, Brooklyn Museum, NY
Living American Artists & The Figure, Pennsylvania State University
Painters as Printmakers, Museum of Modern Art, NY
Young New England Painters, Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL

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