Thomas Arthur Robertson Biography

Thomas Arthur Robertson

American

1911-1976

Biography

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 19, 1911, Thomas Robertson was the son of an attorney. Although his father, the co-owner of the Arkansas Law School, insisted that his son study there, after graduating Robertson enrolled at the Adrian Brewer School of Art in Little Rock, where his studies were supported by scholarships. He probably first learned about printmaking from the illustrator and woodcut artist Howard Simon. In 1933, along with painter Howard Bragg and author Arthur Halliburton, Robertson found the Little Rock Art League and served as its first president. Modeled after the Art Students League in new York, this nonprofit organization offered art instruction and mounted annual exhibitions. Robertson won first prize in the spring exhibition of the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas in 1935, and his award-winning painting Summer Interlude hung in the annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Robertson moved to New Orleans in 1935 to study with Paul Ninas. There he established himself as a portraitist, and became an active member of the New Orleans Art League (NOAL). Robertson's first one-man show was held at the Delgado Museum in 1937, an event sponsored by the Art Association of New Orleans. 

In 1937 Robertson married and returned to Little Rock, but long maintained his connections with New Orleans. In 1940 the artist became an instructor at the Little Rock Junior College. His second solo exhibition at the Delgado that year, sponsored by the NOAL, consisted solely of abstract paintings. In 1942 Robertson began working as a civil service draftsman in the office of Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock. For a time, he sustained his artistic activity by concentrating on smaller and less demanding watercolors and tempera paintings on paper. In 1945 an exhibition of 20 of his non-objective watercolors was mounted at the Addison Gallery in Andover, Massachusetts. Along with his serigraphs, these comprised a one-man exhibition at the Little Rock Public Library later that year.

Around 1946 Robertson was transferred to the Corps of Graves Registration Command in Paris. It seems that he should have flourished there, but mysteriously he seems to have ceased painting and turned away from art at this time. Robertson returned to the United States in 1957 and eventually settled in California. There he seems to have continued working for the Army Corps of Engineers, until his retirement shortly after 1960. He lived the remainder of his life in the small town of Albion in Northern California, where he died on May 25, 1976.