Out of the struggles of the Great Depression, Charles W. Thwaites (1904-2002) rose to prominence as a muralist and leading portraitist in Wisconsin. An active exhibitor in hundreds of local, regional, and national art exhibitions, he won awards and critical acclaim from New York to California.
Thwaites began his career straddling the cultural demands for a truly American art while being lured to the formalism of European modernism and the freedom of expression it espoused. When he moved to New Mexico in the 1950s, he found camaraderie with the Taos Moderns, going on to create sophisticated abstractions that synthesized his personal response with universal emotions.
In this first examination of Thwaites' biography and oeuvre, examples of his Wisconsin and New Mexico paintings are put into the context of American art. Also included are numerous excerpts from his writings, which are profound observations on the meaning of art and the goals of an artist who authentically responds to his inner spirit.
Freedom of expression, underpinned by a disciplined study of nature, art history, and the self, were the raison d'etre of this artist who disdained being labeled or placed in a category. As he noted, "There are 1,000 ways to paint, why limit yourself to one manner? It is of no importance whether a picture is 'modern,' 'academic,' or what have you. Is it good art, is it bad painting, or is it just indifferent? To understand yourself--to understand your personal philosophy--is to understand your likes and dislikes in an organized way."
Thwaites is destined to be recognized as one of America's most skilled, colorful, and admired post-World War II modernists.