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Dox Thrash

Sanctifying Their Souls

image: 12 x 9" framed to: 20 1/2 x 17 1/2"


Born in 1893 in Griffin, GA, Dox Thrash's artistic journey unfolded against the backdrop of a challenging childhood. His parents were sharecroppers and their lives were shaped by the harsh realities of racism, Jim Crow laws, and poverty prevalent in the post-Civil War American South. Motivated to escape these hardships, Thrash left home at the age of 15, seeking opportunities in the North. His path led him to Chicago, where he found steady work while embarking on his artistic career, enrolling in classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After serving in World War I with the American Expeditionary Forces (Buffalo Soldiers) in France, Thrash resumed his art studies in Chicago, eventually making Philadelphia his home. There, he became an integral part of a community of Black creatives with the WPA Print Workshop, the Philadelphia Print Club and Philadelphia's professional/social, Pyramid Club.  

Sanctifying Their Souls - Dox Thrash masterfully captures a heightened sense of drama in this watercolor with its remarkable play of strong light and shadow. Thrash allows us to witness a powerful narrative comprised of a group of 12 figures in a state of rapture. We may not hear the preacher's words, but the conveyed message is surely felt. The congregation, emblazoned with the holy spirit, engages in an animated spectrum of emotions—from weeping and wailing to praising and reconciliation. The foreground features a prominent bass drum, and raised arms provide a sensory awareness of the sounds of worship in this powerful scene. Thrash's skillful use of visual elements and evocative details elevates this painting to a compelling portrayal of religious experience.  It is an exceptional contribution to his impressive body of work.