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Mary Lou (or Marylou)

Dox Thrash, American, 1893 - 1965. Published by Works Progress Administration (WPA), Federal Art Project, Philadelphia.

Made in United States, North and Central America

c. 1939-1940

Carborundum mezzotint over traces of previously etched image

Plate: 9 15/16 x 6 7/8 inches (25.2 x 17.5 cm) Sheet: 15 x 10 3/4 inches (38.1 x 27.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of E. M. Benson, 1942

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Georgia-born painter and sculptor Dox Thrash was one of a number of African American artists who thrived in the Philadelphia print workshop established in 1936 under the government-sponsored Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided artists throughout the country with materials, studio space, and a modest stipend during the Depression. Outstanding among the prints created in the Philadelphia workshop is Thrash's forthright portrait of a woman, identified only as Mary Lou, in which he masterfully exploits the sculptural effects attainable by the carbograph process, a technique that he invented during his WPA tenure and that would become his preferred medium for recording scenes of his adopted community. Thrash first scraped the image into the surface of a metal plate roughened with Carborundum crystals. After inking, the rough areas of the plate printed as rich skin tones, while the scraped areas produced the highlights on Mary Lou's face and the patches of light in the background. James Ganz, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 246.