Victor Thall

Victor Thall

Victor Thall

Those of us who knew Victor in the 1970s remember a tough, bearded, opinionated, energetic old man who could politely be described as “irascible.” His stories seemed improbable – hanging out in Paris in the 20s with soon-t0-be-famous artists, filming silent Western movies in North Africa, riding the rails in the 1930s, painting and sculpting in Spain, Jamaica, and New York – but all were apparently true, even if embellished over the years with certain recurring turns of phrase. For all his bombast on art and politics, Victor never described himself as anything more than a “painter” and never made a case for his own works.

Victor’s “conversational” style challenged everyone who met him; newcomers were often greeted with a growled, “What’s your story, Bud?” and the “evil eye” as seen above – with a bit of a twinkle, because in truth Victor really did want to know your story, to add it to his collection. He thought everyone’s story was worthy of telling and even the most mundane life would later be described in the retelling as “incredible” or “unbelievable.” Victor never ceased to be amazed at what people could do, what they could put up with, and the nonsense they spoke or believed. His regular cast of characters to be railed against included “doddering gerontics,” “sodbusters,” and a host of variously deranged and greedy capitalists including, of course, gallery owners.

While Victor spoke vigorously on life, art, politics, reptiles, women, sports cars and other topics of interest, he left his art to speak for itself. You can see that his paintings speak loud and clear across the years, full of emotion, energy, the dynamics of explosive abstraction and gentle expression. See the later works in the galleries.

And join us in the conversation – about Victor, about Abstract Expressionism and the New York School, about art and life, in the posts page, where you can add comments.

Here’s a taste of Victor the raconteur.

Imagine an evening in the desert outside Palm Springs. The sun has long since set over the San Jacinto mountains, leaving Victor’s house dark save for the lights from a few nearby homes or trailers, and the purple buzz of a useless anti-bug light hung on a nearby tree. The wind, as usual, would be bending the trees that surrounded the house, and in the old days the gurgling of Snow Creek provided a counterpoint to rush of the wind. The night was not cool, though cooler than the blazing desert afternoon. Inside, Victor would be sitting at the dinner table, drinking a glass of wine with his “dear little steak” dinner. If he was in the mood, he might bring the iguana out of its glassed-in terrarium and set it on the table for the horrified guests to watch as it slowly chewed on lettuce. Dogs and cats amble in and out from the living room; the television might be blinking silently to an empty couch. A guest might mention any of the key words – “money,” for example – and Victor would take a sip and begin.

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