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Seymour Thomas: A Texas Genius Rediscovered

February 12 - July 31, 2005


Visitors to the Witte Museum will be able to revisit the lifework of internationally renowned artist Seymour Thomas through an exhibit of his paintings, sketches, and photographs through July 31, 2005.

Stephen Seymour Thomas was born in 1868 in San Augustine, a small town along the El Camino Real in East Texas. He showed artistic talent at a very early age and was constantly drawing and painting. The family moved to San Antonio in 1884 and Thomas soon attended St. Mary's College where he studied with Theodore Gentilz, one of Texas' most distinguished 19th century artists. He also became friends with Robert Onderdonk, another local artist who became Thomas' mentor. (left: Stephen Seymour Thomas, Self Portrait, 1906, oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Ezekiel Cullen Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Cullen House, San Augustine, Texas)

It was during this time that his acclaimed paintings of the views of Mission Concepción and Mission San José were created. In his late teens, Thomas began studies at the Art Students League in New York and continued his training in Paris, France. He lived in Paris and New York, spending most of his time in painting the portraits for which he would become famous. He returned to the United States just before World War I and settled in California.

Thomas' works depict the people and places he encountered during his extensive travels. His highly sought after works of art continue to hang in private homes, museums, and galleries around the world. Thomas' portraits of Woodrow Wilson are still displayed in the White House and his commissioned portrait of General Sam Houston is on display at the San Jacinto Museum.

This exhibit will coincide with the publication of Stephen Seymour Thomas (1868-1956): A Texas Genius Rediscovered by Witte Museum Curator Emeritus, Cecilia Steinfeldt. A symposium and book signing was held February 25, 2005 at the Museum.

Editor's note:

The following quote is from a Handbook of Texas Online article on Seymour Thomas by Jean Haskell:

Thomas was commissioned to paint a portrait of Sam Houston for the Texas building at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Following its exhibition at the fair, the huge equestrian portrait was shown in the Paris Salon in 1898, then presented in 1920 by Col. and Mrs. Francis Drake to the city of Houston; it was finally hung in the San Jacinto Museum. Thomas painted portraits of many famous persons, including several of President Woodrow Wilson, one of which hangs in the White House. Thomas balanced his career as a portrait painter with numerous landscape works. A large collection of his paintings was given by the artist's daughter, Mrs. Jean Haskell, to be hung in the S. Seymour Thomas Memorial Room in the Ezekiel W. Cullen Home in San Augustine, Texas. His Lady and Dog became part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Thomas married Helen M. Haskell in London on October 11, 1892; they had one daughter. He died at his home in La Crescenta, California, on February 29, 1956, and was buried in that town.

A page describing the early visual arts in Texas the Red River Authority web site Rod Tyler says:

The Semicentennial of Texas Independence also called attention to some emerging native-born artists, most notably nineteen-year-old Stephen Seymour Thomas of San Augustine, who won an award of merit at the 1887 State Fair of Texas. It was the beginning of a notable career. Thomas, who was known mostly for his portraits, studied in Paris, where he later made his home. He painted dozens of portraits of distinguished sitters and developed an international reputation that culminated with an exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum in 1935.

A page from the Edan Milton Hughes web site adds:

Thomas is internationally known for his portraits of notables in both the United States and Europe. Member: Pasadena Society of Artists; Los Angeles Art Ass'n; Paris Society of American Painters; Chevalier de Legion d'Honneur (1905). Exhibited: Paris Salon, 1895 (honorable mention), 1901 (gold medal); Exposition Universale (Paris), 1900 (bronze medal); Buffalo Exposition, 1900 (medal); Hors Concours, 1904 (gold medal); Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1935 (solo). Works held: Metropolitan Museum (Lady and Dog); White House (Washington, DC); New Jersey State House; National Museum of American Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Houston Museum; California Institute of Technology (Pasadena); Herron Art Institute (Indianapolis); California Historical Society.

The La Crescenta Woman's Club has information on the Thomases while members of that California city. The Club may be contacted at P.O. Box 8494, La Crescenta, CA. 91214. (right: Stephen Seymour Thomas, San José Mission, 1884, oil on canvas. Collection of the Summerlee Foundation, Dallas. Bequest of Summerfield Griffith Roberts and Annie Lee Warren Roberts)




(above: Stephen Seymour Thomas, Mulberry and White, 1948, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas. Gift of the Artist)


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