Professor Emeritus of Art and former Charles S. Farrar-Laura Norcross Marrs Professor of Fine Arts Arthur Thrall died Wednesday, March 11 in Milwaukee after a battle with cancer. He was 88, a week shy of his 89th birthday.
A dedicated teacher, distinguished painter, award-winning printmaker and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, Thrall was one of 21 members of the Milwaukee-Downer College faculty who came to Lawrence in 1964 as part of the consolidation with the former all-women’s college. He began a 34-year teaching career in 1956 at Milwaukee-Downer and spent 26 years at Lawrence before retiring in 1990. He remained an active artist in retirement, creating paintings and prints in his studio in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.
As an educator, Thrall was respected by students and peers alike for his imagination, patience, encouraging nature and high standards. Dedicated to arts education, his artwork embodied the interdisciplinary nature of a Lawrence education. He often incorporated diverse visual ideas from music, languages, science and literature into his prints and paintings.
Whether in the art studio, the classroom or the faculty committee, Thrall was passionate about the role and importance of art to the Lawrence, as well as the greater, community. He generously contributed his expertise and experience to the creation of the Wriston Art Center.
In addition to Milwaukee-Downer and Lawrence, Thrall held teaching positions in the Kenosha School District and the State University New York-Geneseo. He also taught classes in Finland, London and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As an artist with an international reputation, Thrall drew inspiration from sources as diverse as calligraphy and computers, music and microchips. His artwork has appeared in more than 500 exhibitions as well as the White House and is included in the permanent collections of the British Museum, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery, the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress and the Chicago Art Institute, among others.
He was recognized by the art community with more than 75 awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of American Graphic Artists in New York in 2013, the Museum of Wisconsin Art’s Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, the 1984 “Artist of the Year” designation by the Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Fellowship in Printmaking.
A native of Milwaukee, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Milwaukee and did additional post-graduate study at the University of Illinois, UW-Madison and Ohio State University.
Thrall is survived by his wife Win, former art director at Lawrence, Shorewood, and four children: Grant (Shelly), Minneapolis; Wade (Terese), Chicago; Sara Cortese (Mark), Philadelphia; and Jay, Afton, Minn. He is further survived by seven grandchildren.
The family will greet friends Sunday, March 22 from 1–5 p.m. at Northshore Funeral Services, 3601 N. Oakland Ave. , Milwaukee. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held May 9 from 1-5 p.m. at the Charles Allis Art Museum, 1801 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee. Memorial gifts may be directed to Lawrence University, for the Arthur A. Thrall Student Travel Fund, 711 E. Boldt Way, Appleton, WI 54911 or the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend.
About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.