Thomas Downing - Untitled (1963) - acrylic on canvas - 60in sq.

Thomas Downing - Untitled (1963) - acrylic on canvas - 60in sq.

Sometimes pattern making and the effect of a pattern goes beyond the simply decorative. Sometimes patterns can move us emotionally as much as any example of fine art. I have noticed this with  some Islamic patterns and Amish quilts.
I think this is what I felt when I first saw one of Thomas Downing’s paintings reproduced in a magazine a long time ago. And I never forgot it. On many occasions I had to search long and hard to find it again amid a pile of magazines.

Thomas Downing - "Four Blue Five" - acrylic on canvas - 66in sq.

Thomas Downing - "Four Blue Five" (1962) - acrylic on canvas - 66in sq.

Recently I saw one of his paintings come up for auction which prompted me to look into his work a bit further. Downing is an American artist who settled in Washington D.C. and is associated with the Washington Color Field School. He studied under and became a friend of Kenneth Noland.
Using the circle as a basic unit, Downing arranges various sizes and colors into patterns that sometimes form squares and fit comfortably within the edge of the canvas.

Thomas Downing - Summer (1960) - acrylic on canvas - 88x83in

Thomas Downing - Summer (1960) - acrylic on canvas - 88x83in

The circle unit may have come from Downing exploring abstraction with a reference to nature. See “Summer” at left. The pattern making looks like it might have been  inspired by Amish quilts. See “Untitled (1961-1962)” below and the Amish quilt example.

Thomas Downing - Untitled (1961-1962) - acrylic on canvas - 103in sq

Thomas Downing - Untitled (1961-1962) - acrylic on canvas - 103in sq

Amish quilt - Center diamond with sunshine and shadow (1920) - 75in sq

Amish quilt - Center diamond with sunshine and shadow (1920) - 75in sq