John Thomas Collection

MsC-83  John Thomas Collection.  3 linear feet.

Biographical statement

John Thomas (1927-2001), a graduate of New York University, was one of the foremost painters of Hawaii.  His work has been seen nationally and internationally in over two hundred prestigious solo and group exhibitions in museums, universities, and distinguished art galleries such as the Contemporary Museum's Advertiser Gallery, Honolulu; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; San Francisco Legion of Honor; the American Library in Bucharest, Romania; and the Galleria Schneider in Rome.  He won many important awards, grants, and scholarships, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant, two Yaddo Fellowships, and commissions from Delta Arilines and the State (of Hawaii) Foundation on Culture and the Arts.  His last commission from the SFCA was a painting in celebration of the 150th annniversary of Washington Place, former home of the last queen of Hawaii, Lili'uokalani, and now the Governor's mansion.

Thomas, who was born in Bessemer, Alabama, has been Visiting Professor at six major universities, including the University of Iowa, where he was Visiting Professor of Life Drawing, and has occupied the Ames Walker Professorship Chair at the University of Washington, Seattle.  The art of John Thomas has been featured in American Artist, Aloha, the Magazine of Hawaii, Hawaii, Spirit of Aloha, Western World, and has appeared on the covers of several magazines including American Artist.  His monumental oil paintings "Boy with Goldfish" are reproduced in color in the CD album of the London Symphony Orchestra digital recording of the music which they inspired (Albany Records TROY 053). Thomas's art is in numerous public and private collections, including those of the state of Hawaii, Orange County (California) Museum, and the Hirshhorn at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.
       (Adapted from statement prepared by Peter R. Underwood, Discovery Antiques, Kealakekua, Hawaii)

The Collection

This collection consists of drawings by John Thomas.  There are grids demonstrating his drawing technique, as well as seventeen pencil drawings that illustrate his work on "Boy with Goldfish".

The material in this collection was donated to the University Archives in 2010 by Jerré Tanner, who wrote a symphony inspired by "Boy with Goldfish".  Researchers who are interested in John Thomas should look at the Tanner collection as well as the collection of Harvey Hess.  Both Mr. Tanner and Mr. Hess collaborated with John Thomas in Hawaii for many years.


Box 1

Sketches from "Boy with Goldfish"

Sketch planning grids

Appraisal statement for preliminary pencil drawings noted below, November 29, 2010

Preliminary pencil drawings of battle scenes for the painting series "Boy with Goldfish"

  • Number 1 from "The Lure"
  • Number 2 from "The Lure"
  • Number 3 from "The Lure"
  • Number 4 from "The Lure"
  • Number 5 from "The Lure"
  • Number 6 from "The Lure"
  • Number 7 from "The Trance"
  • Number 8 from "The Trance"
  • Number 9 from "The Trance"
  • Number 11 from "The Trance"
  • Number 12 from "The Trance"
  • Number 13 from "The Trance"
  • Number 14 from "The Wakening"
  • Number 15 from "The Strife"
  • Number 16 from "The Strife"
  • Number 18 from "The Strife"
  • Number 19 from "The Strife"

Collection processed and inventory developed by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, September 14, 2011; last updated, February 3, 2014 (GP).


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675
Telephone: (319)-273-6307
Fax: (319)-273-2913
Email: Gerald.Peterson@uni.edu