A long-time AAN artist member and board Director Emeritus, George C. Thomas sold his first painting at age 14 at the 1948 Sidewalk Art Show. His last major exhibition was an AAN retrospective of his career, Sixty Years Ashore, that I curated with George. The show filled both floors of our Washington Street gallery in 2009.
George didn’t cleave to a single art medium. He focused on watercolor from 1950-1958, lithography and etching from 1960-1964, photography from 1962-1985, and pastels from 1985-2008. His teaching experience also exhibited eclectic tendencies, having taught art to youth beside Elizabeth Saltonstall at Milton Academy, then printmaking at the Worcester Museum School, and then as a professor of photography at MIT – all during the 1960s.
George also lived an alternate life with his wife, Lynn Zimmerman, and two sons…that in Nova Scotia. They settled full time in a farmhouse by the lighthouse in Margaree Harbor for a handful of years in the 1970s, and continued to summer in the province for decades afterwards. The Canadian National Film Board produced a documentary, Margaree People, in 1976 using George’s photography work as the subject. A DVD of Margaree People exists in the AAN Permanent Collection, as well as photographs from his book, Margaree: Photographs of Cape Breton. The PC also preserves a copy of that book as well as the art book that accompanied his 2009 retrospective.
Many of us will remember with true fondness the years in his studio/gallery on Candle Street. George would sit on his old flower-patterned couch and recount great anecdotes. Meeting Frank Swift Chase on the wharves as a kid. The times when Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton, pioneer of stop motion photography, would ride down the bannisters at MIT to an adoring crowd. His stint as a Navy officer. Chartering his schooner in Cape Breton waters. His family in the Cape Breton garden. Fly fishing. The work of the painters in the Group of Seven. The group of plein air artists he drove one day when he got his jeep stuck in a rising bit of water. Working at home in Monomoy.