1927 - 2012
“I wouldn’t recommend [macular degeneration] to anyone, but it’s survivable. I found less and less that I needed to record what was there and realized more and more that solving the riddle of the rectangle or the square was what painting was about.”Thomas Sgouros in a 2009 video profile produced by Joseph A. Chazan for AS220
Born in 1927 to Greek immigrant parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sgouros received his BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1950.
After working as a professional illustrator in Boston and New York, he returned to RISD in 1962 to teach in the illustration department and invest himself in his studio practice as an artist. He exhibited his work regularly and became an esteemed member of the RISD illustration department. Among many other recognitions for his teaching and leadership, he held the Helen M. Danforth Distinguished Professorship from 1991-1994 .
A member of the National Academy, Sgouros received several awards, including a Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts.
His work is in the permanent collections of the Anchorage Museum of Fine Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Jacksonville Museum of Fine Art, RISD Museum, Colby College Museum of Art, and Newport Art Museum.
Sgouros’s post-macular artwork
In a brief six-month period in 1992, macular degeneration devastated the vision in both of Sgouros’s eyes. This happened just as he felt he’d come into his own as a painter. Consequently, vision loss seemed at first like “the end of everything” for him.
He continued teaching at RISD and spending time in his painting studio. As he explained many years later: “I had to work and I didn’t know quite what to do. I couldn’t examine anything based on observation, which turned out to be a pretty good thing, because I don’t think an artist should be a reporter of observation, rather something a little more profound.” He used masking tape and a T-square to create horizon lines and then began painting the Remembered Landscapes that would constitute the sole subject of his work for the last twenty years of his painting life.
V&AP Resources Related to This Artist
Painting as Poetry
A memorial exhibition at RISD highlights Thomas Sgouros's poetic vision and the dramatic paintings he created after losing his vision.Read More
Lessons in Creativity from Artists with Macular Degeneration
Eight artists from one generation and how they continued making art after vision loss due to macular degeneration.Read More