Robert Thornton came to RISD after World War II for his BFA in painting and never left. Retiring in 1989 after 35 consecutive RISD Faculty Shows. His large canvases, in acrylics and oil, were unfailingly innovative and mildly controversial.
His early style, formed with a wry edge and cynical opinion of the human psyche, extends otherwise familiar forms of anatomy and places to create darkly humorous compositions where the 2-dimensional design overrides accurate portraiture. Later investigations capture even darker political themes, or provide contrast in the stormy softness of impressionistic Rhode Island seascapes.