Thornton Dial Sr. was born into poverty in a rural town in West Alabama. Sometimes known as "Buck" Dial, he became a "jack-of-all-trades", doing mainly iron work and cement work to support himself and his family, while creating assemblages on the side from castoff materials. Fellow self taught artist, Lonnie Holley, brought Dial's work to the attention of art world in 1987 by introducing him to collector Bill Arnett. Arnett championed Dial's works and facilitated his involvement in museum shows, where his two and three-dimensional works began drawing comparisons to Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. In 1993, "Thornton Dial: Image of the Tiger" became the artist's first major solo museum exhibition of the 65-year-old African American painter. Organized by guest curator, Thomas McEvilley, this exhibition was presented at the Museum of American Folk Art and The New Museum. In the fall of 2005, the Houston Fine Arts Museum hosted a show, "Thornton Dial in the 21st Century". Dial's works have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Folk Art Museum, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, the de Young Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014.
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