Thomas Locker



Thomas Locker (1937−2012) was one of the major American painters of the past century. In a career that spanned almost 60 years, he had over 75 solo exhibitions. His work ranged from the delicate to the monumental, but all had one thing in common: the beauty of the natural world. He had a deep appreciation for the elusive link between the human spirit and the sublime force of nature.

He spent his entire life in service to his two great passions: painting and nature. Through widespread exhibition of his artwork and publication of his illustrated children’s books, Mr. Locker touched the hearts and minds of countless people.


Video courtesy of Fulcrum publishing

Mr. Locker’s early paintings were poetic landscapes. Dr. Joshua C. Taylor, former director of the National Collection of Fine Arts for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., wrote, "Although Locker’s landscapes are not glimpses of a new Arcadia, the quotation from the past reemphasizes their cerebral play. They call attention less to Nature than to the complex intermingling of perception and thought in the mind of man. Suddenly, seeing becomes thinking, and thinking a delight to the age."

In 1982, Thomas Locker’s career took on a new and even broader dimension. In an effort to connect with a wider audience and educate younger minds, he began work on his first children’s picture book, Where the River Begins. Today, Mr. Locker’s exceptional paintings and illustrations grace the pages of some 30 different books, several of which he also wrote. These unique books have been honored with numerous awards, including the prestigious Christopher Award, the John Burroughs Award, and the New York Times Award for best illustration.

Thomas Locker’s landscapes have a quality all their own. His years of experimentation and research into the glazing techniques and paint chemistry of traditional European painting have enabled him to achieve a new vision of the traditional for a non-traditional age.

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The Classical Landscape

The iconic mountain vista was a mainstay of the Hudson River School and a primary idea in 19th century American painting. For Thomas it represented an idea from primordial memory, seen back through evolution to when we were nomadic peoples on the Savannah, seeking high ground from predators. This high viewpoint allowed us to experience our surroundings in safety and rest. Now, from a postmodern society, we no longer fear the predators but the sense of repose lingers and pervades us when we take in the enormity of nature from a place of security.


River Valley
48" x 72"

Big Sky
50" x 40"

Golden Path
40" x 60"

Homage to Durand
40" x 50"

Meeting of Creeks
24" x 40"

In the Hielderbergs
36" x 48"

Sky Over River Bend
40" x50"

Oxbow Study of the Near
20" x 16"

Hadley
40" x 60

Snow and Moon
40" x 50"

Study for Coming Storm
20" x 16"

Homage to Asher B. Durand
30" x 24"
 
Oxbow
18" x 24"
 

Video courtesy of Fulcrum publishing

Trees and Paths

The winding path around the tree was a recurring motif in Locker’s work. He saw trees as caretakers of humankind, protecting us and cleansing the air and, as a landscape painter, they are ubiquitous in his work. He was perpetually striving to portray the dual experience of nature: the intimate “on the ground” experience and the sublime and awesome impact of the sweeping mountain vista. His paths often bring you through one to the other and his trees, his magnificent trees, are always there shielding the journey.


Winding Path (Ruisdales Path)
24" x 30"

Creektree Cliff
40" x 47"

Grove
24" x 30"

Trees and Creek
50" x 40"

Pathway Through the Trees
20" x 30"

September Stroll
40" x50"

Storm in the Highlands
24" x 30"

Light in the Tree
15" x 12"

Under the Trees
8" x 10"

The Hudson River

At the heart of the 19th century romantic landscape tradition, the Hudson River was a crucial element in Thomas’s work. He wrote several books about it and for many years, his studio resided on its banks.


Above Storm King
32" x 48"

View from Olana
24" x 30"

Storm King
32" x40"

Edge of the Highlands
16" x 20"

The Edge
18" x 24"

Storm King
12" x 15"

Pitching Point
10" x 16"

Rock Face Cliff
8" x 10"
 

The Kaaterskill Clove

Beginning with a two-drop waterfall located in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York, Spruce Creek carves a pronounced chasm in the mountain and descends down to the Hudson River. Beginning with Thomas Cole's first visit in 1825, the Clove became an iconic subject for painters of the Hudson River School representing an image of primeval wilderness setting the ideal for American landscape painting. For Thomas Locker, this was a place of deep spiritual meaning. He saw it as a representation of untouched beauty in nature and a place where one could go to experience sublime beauty set apart from the distractions of the modern world.


Kaaterskill Falls
48" x 40"

Hidden Falls
24" x 30"

Kaaterskill Falls
20" x 24"

Canyon
24" x 30"

Kaaterskill Falls
31" x 46"

Wilderness
48" x 72"

Lake of Dead Trees
40" x 32"

Mountainside
18" x 20"

Top of the Falls
20" x 24"
 
Top of Bastion Falls
20" x 24"
 

Still Life

In the tradition of Hudson River painters like Martin Johnson Heade, Thomas painted a small series of still life paintings against natural backgrounds. Again, as with his landscapes, intimate and everyday is juxtaposed with the expansive sublime impact of the distant mountain and the stretching plain.


Five Pears in the Clove
24" x 20"

Lemonade
14" x 18"

Orange
10" x 8"
     
 

See more paintings

by Thomas Locker

 
     

Learn More

Daily Freeman: Landscape painter Thomas Locker dies

Register Star: Noted area artist Thomas Locker dies

The Valley Advocate: Hudson River in the Pioneer Valley

See pictures from the 2006 Thomas Locker exhibit.

 

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