S. Seymour Thomas, 1868-1956: A Texas Genius Rediscovered
By Cecilia Steinfeldt. Hardcover, 2005, 200 pages.
This beautifully illustrated biography of S. Seymour Thomas is the compelling tale of a young boy from Texas who grew up to achieve artistic fame in Europe. A leading international artist in his day who studied at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académie Julian in Paris, Thomas is little known today. This book by eminent art historian Cecilia Steinfeldt serves both as a tribute to a man of substantial artistic accomplishments and as an effort to revive interest in his distinguished career.
Born in San Augustine, Texas, in 1868, Thomas moved with his family to Dallas a few years later. He was first recognized as an artist at the age of eight, when he won a certificate from the North Texas Fair Association for a pencil drawing of hunting dogs. At age twelve he illustrated a book about outlaw Sam Bass. As a teenager, after the family moved to San Antonio, Seymour began painting with oils and studied under Theodore Gentilz. It was during this time that Seymour painted his famous view of the San José Mission, featured on the book's cover.
In Paris, Thomas won several medals at salons and met fellow American art student Helen Haskell, who became his wife. Once he had established his reputation as an artist, he turned most of his efforts toward portraiture, producing likenesses that combined a meticulous attention to detail with an effort to bring out each sitter's personality.
This book, published by the Texas State Historical Association for the Witte Museum, is a fitting tribute to Seymour Thomas's life and work. Rich in details from family letters and diaries and illustrated with color reproductions of Thomas's paintings, as well as with family photos and examples from his sketchbooks, the book is a significant addition to our knowledge of Texas art and artists.