John Havens Thornton


David B. Boyce on John Havens Thornton:

“From his first body of Paintings in the early 1960’s, John Thornton has considered and employed the formal aesthetic concerns of color, line, form, space, and surface. But, over the course of his career to the present day, he has sought equally to create abstract art in which the viewer can perceive something of the artists’s personality. It is this quality that has always attracted and held Thornton’s attention to certain artists’s work, and one he deems essential for his own. Initially this may sound like a difficult feat to pull off effectively, but consider the value of how much can be determined about someone when listening to how he or she talks. Syntax, word choice, use of pauses, vocal inflection, expression and body language - all of these attendant elements of speech - provide an attentive listener with information that can deepen the meaning and view point of the speaker’s words. Learning something of an artists’s personality from viewing art, especially from a mode of artistic expression that may be challenging, is a parallel experience.”

- from John Thornton Paintings: A Retrospective Exhibition catalog essay 2004, David B. Boyce, Co-Curator, New Bedford Art Museum

Dedee Shattuck Gallery Exhibits:

Small Works, 2013

Small Works, 2012

John Havens Thornton and Pat Coomey Thornton, 2011

Inaugural Show, 2011


to inquire about works, please email or call 508-636-4177.



1933 Born in Mexico City, Mexico 

1954-55 Studied painting with William Seitz at Princeton University 

1955 BSE in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University 

1957 Studied painting with Ralston Crawford, Arts Student League, New York, NY 

1958 Studied painting with Robert Phillip, National Academy of Design, New York, NY 

1955-59 Worked as an Industrial Designer

1963-84 Associate Professor of Art, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA

1963-70 Stage Designer for the Theatre Company of Boston 

1973-78 Art Educator at the DeCordova Museum School, Lincoln, MA,

The University of Massachusetts Boston, and the Danforth

Museum School, Framingham, MA 

1984 Moved residence to New Bedford, MA 

1987-93 Associate Designer for The Preservation Partnership, New Bedford MA 

1992-96 Visiting Artist, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI 

1993-98 Operated business as John Havens Thornton Photography – Commercial, Architectural, and Still Life


1965 Rhode Island Arts Festival, Providence, RI (first prize) 

Ogunquit Arts Festival, Ogunquit, ME (first prize)

One-Person Exhibitions

1961 Nordness Gallery, New York, NY 

1963 Stanhope Gallery, Boston, MA 

1964 Ward-Nasse Gallery, Boston, MA 

1970 The School of Art, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA 

1971 Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA

1976 “John Thornton Paintings/ 1967-1972” Hildreth Gallery, Nasson College, Springvale, ME

1977 Bromfield Gallery, Boston, MA 

1978 “John Thornton Paintings” Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA 1979Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 

1981 “John Havens Thornton – Recent Paintings” Clark Gallery, Lincoln, MA 1995“John Havens Thornton Paintings” Dartmouth Gallery, Dartmouth Town Hall, Dartmouth, MA 

2004 “John Thornton Paintings: A Retrospective” New Bedford Art Museum, New Bedford, MA

Two-Person Exhibitions

1967 “Robert Hamilton/John Havens Thornton – Selected New Paintings,” Institute of Contemporary Art, 

Boston, MA

2010 “Line + Relation”, An Exhibit of John and Charles Thornton Gelb Gallery, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA

Group Exhibitions

1963 DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA 

1964 New England Contemporary Artists, Boston, MA 

1965 Mead Paper Company New England Artists, Boston, MA

Chase Manhattan Bank Collection, Boston, MA 

1966 Art in Embassies, U.S. Information Agency Program, Boston, MA         

1967        “Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Paintings,”

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY 

1969 Boston Now, Boston, MA

1970 Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 

1976 Cutler, Staviridis Gallery, Boston, MA 

1987 DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA 

1993 “Landscape as Metaphor: The Transcendental Vision,”

guest curated by Dorothy Abbott Thompson, Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, MA, then travelled in 1994 to the Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI, and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, ME

1999 “Triennial,” Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, MA 

2000 “Visual Memoirs,” curated by Carl Belz, Rose Art Museum,

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