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Thomas, Stephen Seymour (1868–1956)

Jean Haskell Biography Entry

Stephen Seymour Thomas, painter, the son of James Edwards and Mary Landon (Blount) Thomas, was born in San Augustine, Texas, on August 20, 1868. His parents were among the early settlers of San Augustine and built the first two-story house in Texas. He began painting and drawing at an early age and from 1885 to 1888 attended the Art Students League in New York, where he studied under William Merritt Chase and James Carroll Beckwith. At the age of twenty Thomas studied in Paris under Jules Lefebvre and Benjamin Constant. He also took a private class with Alexander Harrison and studied at the École des Beaux Arts for six years. Thomas's detailed scenes are characteristic of late nineteenth-century French academy-trained artists. He painted both genre and landscape subjects and exhibited for twenty consecutive years at the Paris Salon, where he received his first honors in 1891. The salon hung the first two paintings he submitted, and in 1892 his painting Victime Innocente was exhibited there and afterwards was widely reproduced. The painting's success insured him an entry in Who's Who In America at the age of twenty-four and brought him a number of commissions. His last exhibit at the Paris Salon was Portrait of M. Antonin Dubost, president of the French Senate. During the 1890s Thomas won a number of honors, including a bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition, two gold medals (1901, 1904) at the Paris Salon, the Hors-Concours Salon award in 1904, and a gold medal at the Munich International. In 1905 he was decorated in France with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.

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 Crescente, California, on February 29, 1956, and was buried in that town.

Pauline A. Pinckney, Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).


  • Visual Arts
  • Painting

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

Jean Haskell, “Thomas, Stephen Seymour,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995