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Historic painting to be featured in exhibit

'The Stragglers' on loan by ASU Libraries

"The Stragglers" painting

Arizona artist Marjorie Thomas’ 1934 painting, "The Stragglers."

May 20, 2016

Arizona artist Marjorie Thomas’ 1934 painting titled "The Stragglers" has been loaned by the ASU Libraries for presentation in a forthcoming exhibit at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona.

The art was commissioned by the federal Public Works of Art Project, a predecessor to the Works Progress Administration. For many years the historic oil on canvas painting could be seen in Arizona Senator Carl T. Hayden US Senate office in Washington, D.C. It became part of the ASU Libraries Arizona Collection in 1969 along with the Senator Carl T. Hayden Papers and a number of other paintings, photographs and awards. Betsy Fahlman,  art history professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, will serve as guest curator for the show titled "Marjorie Thomas: Arizona Art Pioneer," on display at the Wickenburg museum from May 28 through Nov. 27.  

Born July 28, 1885, in Newton Center, Massachusetts, Marjorie Thomas grew up in the Boston area and graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where she was a student of Edmund Tarbell, Philip Hale, and Frank Benson. She also studied with Louis Kronberg and John Palmer Wicker. She exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1924 and 1928. She later exhibited works in the 1929-1933 exhibitions of the Arizona Artists Arts and Crafts at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

Thomas moved to Arizona in 1909 with her mother for her brother's health, and settled in what is now Paradise Valley, adjacent to Scottsdale. She, her mother and her brother lived and worked at a 320 acre ranch at Cheney Drive and Scottsdale Road.  Thomas opened the first art studio in downtown Scottsdale and many of her works featured Arizona landscapes and wildlife. She accompanied author Zane Grey on his last trip to Rainbow Bridge in 1929, traveling by horse with him and drawing as they went. Thomas died April 1, 1978 at the age of 92 and is buried beside her brother Richard Thomas in Tempe’s Double Butte Cemetery. 

“The life and career of Marjorie Thomas links the chronicle of Arizona’s art and history. Arriving before statehood, she witnessed at first hand many changes in Scottsdale and the state that became her home. It took grit and determination for an artist to leave the East and move West, and Thomas was a real pioneer,” said Fahlman.

An authority on the art history of Arizona, Fahlman's books include "New Deal Art in Arizona" (2009) and "The Cowboy’s Dream: The Mythic Life and Art of Lon Megargee" (2002). She is also the author of two essays in catalogues published in 2012 by the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff: “New Women, Southwest Culture: Arizona’s Early Art Community” (in "Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton: Artist and Advocate in Early Arizona") and “Making the Cultural Desert Bloom: Arizona’s Early Women Artists” (in "Arizona’s Pioneering Women Artists: Impressions of the Grand Canyon State").

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