John Havens Thornton: abstract artist & modern day “renaissance man” passes away


John Havens Thornton died peacefully at CareOne of New Bedford  on April 16th. Born December 20th, 1933 in Mexico City, he spent his youth in Upper Montclair, NJ, moving to New York City after graduating from Princeton University in Engineering. He later moved to Boston where he taught at Mass. College of Art, before moving to New Bedford, where he lived with his wife and two children in a historic house that was once a part of the Rotch Jones Duff property and that he renovated in 1985.

John was a gifted artist who exhibited his abstract artwork in galleries and museums in New York and New England, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Rose Art Museum, The New Bedford Art Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. His work can be found in The Rose Art Museum and is part of several private collections. He was a modern day “renaissance man” who read voraciously, loved kayaking and tackling his many, many projects.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia Coomey Thornton and their children; Emily Thornton Gauger of Brooklyn, NY and Charles Thornton of Brooklyn, NY, as well as his daughters from a previous marriage; Amy Brooks Thornton of Vermont, and Audrey Powers Thornton of California. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren and a great grandson.


A gathering in his memory will take place at a later date. His artwork can be viewed online on the artists Instagram page- @johnhavensthornton

“Against neutral colored backgrounds, Thornton has painted the elemental outlines of archetypal domestic shapes: shoes, trees, towers, and others suggesting forms that demand space for their presence. By the use of subtle transitions of color within these lines, he flattens the forms to abstractions that become cyphers for themselves.” (Roger Mandle) In White Hot Magazine