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Dox Thrash

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Dox Thrash (1893-1965)
 Artist and Printmaker: The Unknown Hero from Griffin

"Dox Thrash and Self-Portrait", 1931  "Griffin Hills", 1940
  "Harmonica Blues", 1937-38   "Life", 1938-39

About Dox Thrash...
  • Born and raised in Griffin, Georgia, 1893
  • Fought as a "Buffalo Soldier" in France - World War I
  • Accomplished artist and printmaker
  • Inventor of the carborundum mezzotint process
  • Died in 1965, buried in the National Cemetery in NJ as a war hero

Dox Thrash was born in Griffin on March 22, 1893 to Gus and Ophelia Thrash.  He was the second of four children born to the Thrash family.  Dox left Griffin at the age of fifteen in 1908 making his way north as part of the "Great Migration" of Southern blacks to find work in the North.

Dox spent time traveling with a circus and a Vaudeville act.  In 1911 Dox came to Chicago and stayed for the next twelve years.  Chicago was opening up to artists of color and there were great opportunities for Dox to continue his education.  Dox enrolled in the night school of the Art Institute of Chicago and worked as an elevator operator during the day.

Dox Thrash joined the army in September, 1917 and was assigned to the 365th Infantry Regiment, 183rd Brigade, 92nd Division.  This is the famous division known as the "Buffalo Soldiers."  Dox fought in one of the last battles of the war at the city of Metz.  He suffered a gas attack and shell shock all in the last 28 hours of the war.  Dox returned to Chicago and art school after a short stint in Vaudeville.

Dox finished his education and was "lured back to the open road."  After hoboing and working odd jobs for several years he found a home in Philadelphia in 1925 working as janitor.  He continued his work as an artist and created the poster for the Second Annual National Negro Music Festival in 1930.  His artistic talent was recognized by other black artists in Philadelphia and New York.  He became involved with the Tra Club of Philadelphia which gave his work a wider audience.

Dox Thrash achieved his greatest fame working with the Federal Art Project from 1936-1939.  It was here that he first worked on and invented the process of carborundum mezzotint with the help of Mesibov at the Fine Print Workshop in Philadelphia.  Dox would make this process his primary medium for many years and produced his greatest work with it.

Dox Thrash gained wide recognition in the art community from the late 1930's through the 1950's.  He spent the rest of his life working with young African-American artists and passed away in 1965.

Dox Thrash is known for his striking and realistic portrayals of African-American life in the mid-Twentieth Century.  He was posthumously honored with a show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2002 entitled, Dox Thrash: An African-American Master Printmaker Rediscovered.

The Carborundum Mezzotint Process

 "I got some of the carborundum powder they used in grinding lithograph stones and rubbed it into a copper plate with an old flatiron.  I got a queer rough surface.  Well, this fellow Mesibov looks over my shoulder, and says, 'Hey, I bet you could work lines in that.'  I took a burnisher (a knife-like tool) and sketched a nude." -  Dox  Thrash in the Philadelphia Record October, 1940.

Further Reading at the GTC Library

Ittmann, John.  Dox Thrash:  An African American Master Printmaker Rediscovered. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002.

Web Links
African American Registry Dox Thrash, inventive artist
Black History Month WPA Prints -Dox Thrash
Dox Thrash: An African American Master Printmaker Rediscovered
The Philadelphia Print Collaborative
Black Printmakers and the WPA...Introduction
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Dox Thrash Revealed
Dox Thrash - Inventor by Claude L. Clark
Buffalo Soldier Museum

"Monday Morning Wash", 1938-39                                                   "Defense Worker", 1941

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