Portrait of Kenneth Whitsett, Artist and Historian
Eugene Thomason (1895-1972) was born in South Carolina. During his childhood, he lived in several small communities in the South. At the age of eight, without any formal instruction, Thomason began to paint and draw. Between 1911 and 1920, his family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thomason attended Davidson College for about a year and then joined the Navy in 1918. Although he was scheduled to serve in the Navy for two more years after World War I, Thomason was honorably discharged from the service, thanks to the efforts of his father and friends at the Duke Power Company. His father told Mr. Duke, his employer, that Eugene wanted to be an artist, and Duke agreed to be his patron. Thomason subsequently enrolled in the Art Students League in 1920. At the same time he took night classes at the Grand Central School. Thomason met George Luks while in New York, and the two of them taught advanced art students at their own school for 12 years. During his time with Luks, Thomason received numerous awards, joined the Society of Independent Artists and exhibited his work in several galleries, though he never showed his work in a juried art show. In the late 1920s, Thomason traveled to Ireland to paint and soon became fascinated with the elderly fishermen of the area. He returned to the United States after four months. In the early 1930s, Thomason returned to North Carolina, and he established a studio in Charlotte where he played an instrumental role in creating an art revival in the area. After marrying in 1939, he and his wife moved into a house in the Lake James area. Thomason did not paint for the first year in the new house, spending much of his time getting to know the Appalachian people. He devoted the last 30 years of his life to painting the people around him.