Stephen Seymour Thomas
(1868 - 1956)
Stephen Seymour Thomas was born in San Augustine, Texas on August 20, 1868 to James Edwards Thomas and Mary Landon Thomas. His parents built the first two-story house in the state of Texas and were among the first settlers of San Augustine.
Stephen Thomas was a portrait painter and became a 'known' artist in Texas at a very early age. A successful exhibition in New York City at age sixteen facilitated his entry to the Art Students League in New York from 1885 to 1888, where he studied under the aegis of William Merritt Chase and James Carroll Beckwith. At age 20, Thomas studied under Jules Lefebvre and Benjamin Constant in Paris at the Academie Julian, and continued to live in Paris for twenty-five years. He took private classes with Alexander Harrison and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts for six years.
At age twenty-four, he had the distinction of being placed in "Who's Who in America", due primarily to the success in 1892 of his painting "Victime Innocente". Thomas had great success there as a portrait and genre painter while regularly exhibiting at the Paris Salon and London's Royal Academy. His last exhibit at the Paris Salon was "Portrait of M. Antonin Dubost", president of the French Senate. Thomas returned to the United States prior to World War I where he lived in New York. In 1915, he moved to Southern California where he built a home in La Crescenta. He continued portrait commissions until his death on February 29, 1956.
Thomas won a bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition, two gold medals at the Paris Salon in 1901 and 1904, the Hors-Concours Salon award in 1904, and a gold medal at the Munich International. In 1905, he received the Cross of the Legion of Honor in France. In 1893, at the World's Fair in Chicago, Thomas was commissioned to paint a portrait of Sam Houston for the Texas building. In 1898, after the exhibition at the fair, the large equestrian portrait was shown in the Paris Salon. In 1920, it was then presented to the city of Houston by Col. and Mrs. Francis Drake; later to be hung in the San Jacinto Museum.
Thomas painted landscapes as well as portraits of many famous individuals in the United States and Europe, including former President Woodrow Wilson, which currently hangs in the White House. Thomas's daughter, Mrs. Jean Haskell, has donated a sizeable collection of her father's works, which hang in the Ezekiel W. Cullen Home, Memorial Room, in San Augustine.
Thomas was a member of the Pasadena Society of Artists and the Paris Society of American Painters. His many exhibits included the Paris Salon from 1891-1910, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1935. Numerous awards include honorable mention at the Paris Salon in 1895, and a gold medal in 1901; a bronze medal at the Paris Expo in 1900; a gold medal at the Hors Concours in 1904; and, the Chevalier de Legion d'Honneur in 1905.
His works can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, the White House in Washington, D.C., the New Jersey State House, the National Museum of Modern Art in Washington, D.C., the Houston Art Museum, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and the Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana.