Ryan Summerlin September 4, 2009
New York Abstract painter Yvonne Thomas died Friday, Aug. 7, 2009, due to complications after a fall; she was 95. Yvonne Navello was born in Nice, France in 1913, coming with her family to Boston and then New York when she was 15. Mrs. Thomas had a long history and connection with Aspen, dating from 1949 when she first visited for Christmas at the Hotel Jerome with her husband, Leonard Thomas and their two daughters. In 1953, they bought a house on Red Mountain, which has remained in the family since then. In Aspen, she showed her paintings at various galleries and at the Aspen Art Museum. She also participated in programs at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She studied at Cooper Union, the Arts Students League and privately with the Russian painter Dmitri Romonovsky whose rigorous lessons in portraiture and the nude helped her enormously, though her own work followed quite another path. Thomas’ breakthrough occurred in 1948 when Patricia Matta, the wife of the Surrealist Roberto Matta, introduced her to “Subject of the Artist,” a workshop that included Mark Rothko, Barnet Newman, Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes. Thomas had found her place.An intimate circle of like-minded artists, they met in an 8th Street loft, 5 teachers and 5 artists. Thomas became friends with Willem & Elaine de Kooning, Philip Guston and others, including Marcel Duchamp. One of the few women artists among this first generation of New York abstract painters, Thomas was invited to join the legendary Artist’s Club and was included in all five of the “New York Painting and Sculpture Annuals” of the 1950s as well as the seminal 9th Street Show in 1951. Thomas studied with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown who gave her, she said, “the courage of color.” She has shown in many of the fabled galleries of the period, including the Stable Gallery, Tanager, Zabriskie, Betty Parsons and Xavier Fourcade. More recently, she has shown with Katherina Rich Perlow and Lohin Geduld in New York and Thomas McCormack in Chicago. Her last show was in February 2009 at Lohin Geduld, a Chelsea gallery. Yvonne had never stopped making art, still drawing and creating watercolors and collages until the end. A gifted, fiercely independent woman, she was a feminist at heart before feminism was the norm. She is survived by her daughters, Viviane Thomas and Gwen Avillez, and three grandchildren, Christopher Trimble, Nicholas Trimble and Joana Avillez.