Theresa Pollak

Coined as the matriarch of the Richmond, Virginia art community, Theresa Pollak
not only founded Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts but also laid
the city’s foundation for a thriving contemporary art scene and appreciation. In her
early twenties, Pollak studied alongside Alexander Calder and Mark Rothko at the
Art Students’ League of New York. She later attended the Hans Hofmann School of
Painting in 1958 and travelled across Europe studying French Impressionism. These
experiences directly influenced her approach to material and composition. In her
work, which includes graphite and ink drawings, watercolor paintings and oil on
canvas, her quality of line remains expressive and emotive. Pollak’s open-ended
marks, scratchy yet elegant, etch out sources of light, moving fluidly from interior
and exterior views. Capturing the places and people close to her, like the mountains
of Virginia, the Richmond city streets outside her studio, and faces of her school
peers, she offers us a window into her uniquely abstracted world.
Born in 1899, Theresa Pollak lived an incredible life through three centuries. In 1928,
she founded the art department at the Richmond Professional Institute, which grew
into Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, now ranked as the
number one public art school in America. She showed at The Whitney Museum of
American Art in New York, The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., and The Virginia
Museum of Fine Arts, among many others. Pollak passed away in 2002.