Allen, Thomas (1849–1924)

By: Pauline A. Pinckney

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 18, 2018

Thomas Allen, painter, son of Thomas and Annie G. Allen, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1849. In his second year of business school at Washington University, St. Louis, Allen accompanied his professor, J. W. Paterson, on a sketching expedition to the Rocky Mountains. His notes and sketches from that trip increased his interest in art. In 1871 he went to Paris, then to Düsseldorf, where he studied at the Royal Academy from 1872 to 1876.

In the winter of 1878–79 he traveled to San Antonio, Texas, before returning to France. In San Antonio he painted three notable works: The Market Place, San Antonio (exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1882); Mexican Woman Washing at San Pedro Spring, and The Portal of San José Mission. The colors of his romantic scenes are muted, and his subjects are presented with little detail. Allen's work shows an appreciation of the simple and commonplace.

The first American showing of Allen's work was at the National Academy of Design in New York. He was made a member of the American Society of Artists, and in 1884 he became an associate member of the National Academy. In 1893 he was a member of the International Board of Judges at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and he was chairman of the jury of paintings at the World's Fair in St. Louis. He was vice president of the Boston Art Club and chairman of the Art Commission of Boston. Before his death in 1924 he became president of the board of trustees of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. His paintings are in the collections of the San Antonio Public Library, the Witte Memorial Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Allen died in Worcester, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1924.

Pauline A. Pinckney, Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Visual Arts
  • Painting

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Pauline A. Pinckney, “Allen, Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 18, 2018