The Steffen Thomas Museum of Art in Buckhead, Georgia — located just east of Atlanta — is one of only 14 “single artist” museums in America. Many will know of the museums established for Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol. The missions of such museums deliver full immersion into an artist’s life works, thereby providing visual and educational experiences quite different from those at the approximately 1,200 fine art museums throughout the country. In the South, there are 4 museums dedicated to focusing on a single artist: Walter Anderson and George Ohr in Mississippi, Marlene Tseng Yu in Louisiana, and Steffen Thomas in Georgia.
Steffen Thomas was a young man who had just earned the status of “Master” by the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich when he immigrated to America in 1928. Two years later he settled in Atlanta. In 1941 he bought 50 acres in Stone Mountain, Georgia, where he designed and built his stone home and raised a family. He also built a studio/foundry where he cast his greatest commissioned public sculptures, the last being in 1955. Thereafter, he turned his creative energies to producing oil paintings, watercolors, mosaics, and sculptures — and 400 of the finest came to form the collection of the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art.
Every artist of Thomas’s generation was influenced by a sequence of powerful movements during the first half of the 20th century, from German Expressionism to the School of Paris to Abstract Expressionism. It turned out that far too many artists became slavish followers. Others found themselves awkwardly stuck, forever trying to reconcile these different styles to no avail. Thomas, however, was a prolific and insatiable experimenter in every medium who did develop an original vision. Fortunately, the preservation of his collection actively teaches this lesson. The museum’s Arts Outreach Program and changing exhibitions reveal how contemporary artists can successfully absorb powerful stylistic influences and also emerge as truly innovative.
Discoveries in American Art magazine is pleased to curate the exhibition, “Steffen Thomas: The Landscapes of Lyrical Expressionism.” These works were selected from two sources. Those from the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art are obviously not for sale; however, a selection of works privately held by members of the Thomas family is offered here for the first time.