Thornton Dial

Dial became known in the 1980s for his ambitious assemblages. In 1990, he began to create works on paper, quickly establishing a set of motifs that he returned to again and again. One of his recurring themes is the relationship between men and women. He adopted the tiger as an alter ego and allegory for the Black male experience. In this drawing, the tiger is flanked by two female figures and its tail is coiled around a third. Artist Juan Logan writes that “Dial’s tiger is always in charge, as sure as Dial himself, as an artist, is always in charge.” This was in contrast to the precarious conditions African Americans faced in the South.

Thornton Dial
American, 1928–2016
Ladies Stand by the Tiger, 1991
Watercolor, graphite, and fabricated black chalk
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection and purchase on the Manley Family Fund; 2018.98
© 2021 Estate of Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York