Cornelia Thomsen


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  • Stripes Nr.41


Cornelia Thomsen is a contemporary artist living and working in New York since 2006, best known for her abstract paintings. Cornelia Thomsen began her career in 1990 as an artist at the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory in Meissen near Dresden after a 4-year apprenticeship in the company, where she was trained to paint baroque patterns onto porcelain. In 1994 she moved to Frankfurt where she enrolled in the University of Art and Design in Offenbach/Frankfurt. She turned to abstraction and developed her Stripes painting series in 2008 after a subsequent move to New York. The original idea of the series was based on her observation of the ocean, with its fluctuating colors and luminosity. Initially she painted the works in a horizontal format but soon decided to flip the orientation to a vertical format to detach the stripes from their reference to nature. The Stripes paintings consist of vertical bands of irregular widths that reach to the very edges of the canvas. They are a result of subtle differences in width, color and intensity. The Stripes produce a flickering sensation imbuing the overall composition with an optical effect, which is created by using strong contrast of dark and light colors and the juxtaposition of blurred and sharp lines.

The drawings are an intrinsic, if not intimate persuasion of a light that verges on a kind of drifting. The strokes of the ink pen are not punctuated but move quietly, yet intensely, from one area of concentration to another. The result in the larger works on paper is a kind of ephemeral surface and in the smaller ones a more purely abstract composition.

Thomsen’s abstract work is primarily concerned with formal matters and deal with basic questions about color and line. She also engages with postwar German history through figurative paintings, drawings and watercolors. One example is the series Role Models, which consists of paintings of East German officials who were active when she was growing up in East Germany. The Meissen Propaganda Dishes are a cynical look back into her time at the Meissen Manufactory and consist of paper dishes with original Meissen flower decorations combined with ideological slogans. Figurative works are the focus of Thomsen’s work during the past two years and show her interest in psychological studies. With her distinctive body of work Thomsen keeps abstract and figurative work in tension, finding inspiration from the rich history of abstract art and from her upbringing in former East Germany.

Thomsen was born in Rudolstadt in the German Democratic Republic in 1970. After the reunification of Germany she moved to Frankfurt and received BA and MFA degrees from the University of Art and Design in Offenbach/Frankfurt, Germany. She currently lives and works in New York City.

[Solo Exhibitions]

2014: “Landscape and Abstraction: Cornelia Thomsen,” Friedrich-Froebel Museum, Bad Blankenburg, Germany

“Cornelia Thomsen: Hypocrisis, Pressures, and Ironies of Life in Communist East Germany,” German Consulate NYC, New York

2015: “Cornelia Thomsen: Stripes and Structures,” Kashima Arts, Tokyo

2016: “Cornelia Thomsen: Strokes,” Leslie Feely Gallery, New York

2017: “Cornelia Thomsen,” Felix Ringel Gallery, Duesseldorf, Germany

2018: “Cornelia Thomsen: Stripes and Structures II,” Kashima Arts, Tokyo

2022: “Cornelia Thomsen: The Collective Self,” 1014 Space for Ideas, New York

“Cornelia Thomsen. Garden: Urgency and Resilience,” Tayloe Piggott Gallery, Jackson, Wyoming

Unfolding Ratio,” √K Contemporary, Tokyo

[Group Exhibitions]

2008: “Fragile Diplomacy,” The Bard Graduate Center, New York, 2008

2010: “Etchings and Prints,” Manhattan Graphics Center, New York

2015: “Testing Testing: Painting and Sculpture since 1960 from the Permanent Collection,” Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

2016: German Consulate, “Make Your Mark,” Northside Festival’s Williamsburg Walks, Brooklyn

2018: Zurich 18 Art Fair, Felix Ringel Galerie, Zürich

2019: The Felix Ringel Gallery, Duesseldorf Germany

2021: “√K Collection Summer 2021“, √K Contemporary by Kashima Arts, Tokyo

2022: “The Joy of Blue,” Leslie Feely, New York

“Quieter than Silence,” Venetia Initiatives, New York


[ Publications ] 

Cornelia Thomsen: Works on Paper, The International Art and Design Fair, New York, 2005

Cornelia Thomsen: Garden, Erik Thomsen Gallery, New York, 2011

Cornelia Thomsen: Stripe Paintings, Erik Thomsen Gallery, New York, 2011

Cornelia Thomsen: Stripes and Structures, Leslie Feely Gallery, New York, 2014

Cornelia Thomsen: Stripes and Structures, Kashima Arts, Tokyo, 2015

Cornelia Thomsen: Strokes, Leslie Feely Gallery, New York, 2016

Cornelia Thomsen. Garden: Urgency and Resilience, Tayloe Piggott Gallery, Jackson, Wyoming, 2022


[Public collections]
Ackland Museum, Chapel Hill, NC
Fairfield University Art Museum, Fairfield, CT
Friedrich Fröbel Museum, Bad Blankenburg, Germany
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), Minneapolis, MN
Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ

Link: Hyperallergic review by Robert Morgan

Link: Cornelia Thomsen Website