Research Fellowship in Twentieth-century Abstract Painting


The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation Research Fellowship in Twentieth-Century Abstract Painting will provide an emerging scholar unique access to a diverse collection of mid-twentieth century abstract, geometric painting for the purpose of pursuing an independent research project. The Foundation’s collection features artworks from 1950–1979, from North and South America, with particular attention devoted to hard-edge, geometric abstraction, Op, and Color Field painting. Overall, the fellowship seeks to provide an early-career scholar with research and professional development experience in close collaboration with a prominent art collection. The fellowship term is one year.

The Thoma Fellow will be responsible for researching artists and artworks in the Foundation’s collection and writing interpretive summaries, ultimately working toward identifying and elucidating an area of original scholarly investigation during the second half of the fellowship. The fellow may also be tasked with compiling relevant bibliographies and expert contacts in subject areas outlined above. The fellow will plan and complete these projects in dialogue with the Foundation’s curator.

The fellowship is intended to provide the necessary experience to help launch the scholar’s career in future endeavors in an academic or curatorial profession.

Applications are due June 19, 2017. The fellowship will begin in September 2017 and run through August 2018.

Information about past fellows is available here.


  • MA, Ph.D. or current Ph.D. student in Art History or related field, with an emphasis on twentieth-century abstract painting.
  • Well-versed in the terminology, movements, and artists of twentieth-century abstract painting.
  • Excellent writing abilities with the capacity to write in a professional and accessible manner, and attention to documenting sources.
  • Access to an academic art library and online research journals through a university or college.
  • Experience examining artworks.
  • Ability to communicate ideas about art and art history.
  • Organized and able to work independently.
  • Previous applicants may reapply.


The fellow will work at the Foundation office in downtown Chicago, and from a research library in the Chicago area.


Six (6) hours per day, two (2) days per week, for one (1) year, for a total of 600 hours. Work must be completed on weekdays. Work will begin in September 2017.


$15,000 total stipend for the year-long project. The position is part-time. No employee benefits are available. The stipend is taxable income per the IRS, and it will be the fellow’s responsibility to consult their accountant or financial planner. More information:


  • Letter of interest (500 words or fewer) stating your experience in the field of 20th century abstract painting and what you hope to gain from this fellowship.
  • Two (2) writing samples (2,000 words or fewer each) that demonstrate an original argument (e.g. an excerpt from a dissertation chapter, journal article, critical review, term paper).
  • Current CV or résumé.
  • Names, relationship, and contact information of two (2) academic or professional recommenders.