Thomas Flintoff, an itinerant portrait painter who worked in Texas in the mid-nineteenth century, was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, in 1809 and moved to the United States around 1850. Though little is known of his early life, the fact that he had received some training is evident in his work, for his paintings show that he had at least been exposed to the elements of English romantic style. However, his work is somewhat primitive, showing a lack of skill in rendering depth and painting detail. He arrived in Galveston, Texas, in the spring of 1851. There he painted several portraits, including those of Pryor M. Bryan and his wife, Mary Angelica, Thomas Jefferson Chambers and his wife, Abbie, and a group portrait of William J. Jones's children. In late 1851 Flintoff went to Austin, where he was commissioned by the legislature to restore its portrait of Stephen F. Austin. One of his portraits of Austin was donated to Austin College at Sherman in 1855. Other commissions followed, and Flintoff completed portraits of Gen. Edward Burleson, Guy Morrison Bryan, and George Washington Smyth.
In the spring of 1852 he visited Houston, Corpus Christi, Indianola, and Matagorda. He recorded his impressions of these towns in a series of watercolor sketches that are invaluable to historians. Many of them represent municipal buildings and churches that were demolished later in the nineteenth century and would otherwise have been known only by written descriptions. The muddy streets, luxuriant vegetation, and livestock included in Flintoff's sketches evoke the rustic flavor of early Texas towns.
Flintoff disappeared from the scene in 1852 just as mysteriously as he had earlier appeared. He eventually went to Melbourne, Australia, where he died in 1891. His portraits of Texans are in the collections of the state Capitol, the Texas State Archives, the Barker Texas History Center, the San Jacinto Museum of History (see SAN JACINTO MONUMENT AND MUSEUM), and Austin College. His landscape sketches are included in the Houston Metropolitan Research Center and a private collection.