Bob Thompson St. Matthew's Description of the End of the World 1964

  • Not on view

The central figure in Thompson’s St. Matthew’s Description of the End of the World clasps a bird by its leg and appears to dangle it into a swirl of fiery red and orange brushstrokes. Comprising five other loosely delineated and boldly colored figures, the scene portrays the chaos and violence of the biblical apocalypse described in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Thompson took as his point of departure a portion of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, made for the Sistine Chapel, reimagining the sixteenth-century fresco in vibrant hues and expressive brushstrokes.

The artist made the work in New York shortly after returning from Europe, where he had spent time in London, Paris, and Ibiza and studied the paintings of earlier European artists such as Francisco Goya and Nicolas Poussin. Thompson took from these artists a profound appreciation for the emotional potential of color—an interest visible throughout his body of work. Indeed, in a letter written to his sister, the artist proclaimed, “In a twisted sort of way I am doomed to be buried alive in cadmium orange, red, yellow light with flowers on my grave in magenta violet.”

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Oil on canvas
6' x 60 1/8" (182.8 x 152.8 cm)
Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

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