Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Thunder Bolt Pattson Rassler

Full-body drawing of bearded figure with blue and black outlining and one hand in pocket, stepping onto a platform; “Thunder Bolt Pattson Rassler” written in top left corner.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Crayon and pencil on paper


11 x 8 1/2 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

© Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe/High Museum of Art, Atlanta.


Although Rowe associated art making with childhood, some of her themes were soundly adult. She created several works depicting her favorite athlete, Claude “Thunderbolt” Patterson, and other wrestlers. In one of her wrestling portraits, Patterson shows off his figure in a suggestive pose while looking invitingly at the viewer. Patterson is much more subdued in Untitled (Wrestling Ring), but his female companion (thought to be Rowe herself) leans against him coquettishly. Rowe decorates the base of the ring with a large chicken surrounded by eggs—perhaps a suggestion of the artist’s attraction to Patterson and her reproductive wishes.