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 Thomas B. Allen  (1928 - 2004)

About: Thomas B. Allen


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Lived/Active: New York/Tennessee      Known for: magazine illustrator, genre, marine

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BIOGRAPHY for Thomas Allen
1928 (Nashville, Tennessee)

New York/Tennessee

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magazine illustrator, genre, marine

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, magazine,corporation and children's literature illustrator Thomas B. Allen was also a painter. Late in his career, when queried about his accomplishments, he said: "Won some awards. Caught a whole lot of fish.Found my calling as an illustrator of books for children." (Mifflin)

Among his illustrated children's books are "On Granddaddy's Farm", which he also wrote; "Across the Wide Dark Sea", "Climbing Kansas Mountains", "A Green Horn Blowing", "The Chalk Box Kid" and "Blackberries in the Dark".

Magazine commissions included "Esquire", "Life", "McCall's", "Redbook", "Playboy" "Fortune", "The New Yorker" and "Sports Illustrated". For Nashville performers Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, he illustrated seventeen country-music album covers, and collaborated closely with Earl and Louise Scruggs.

Of his early 1960s illustration work for Bluegrass country singers Flatt and Scruggs, whom he featured in their white suits, white hats and Kentucky Colonel ties against a dark blue background, Marty Stuart, songwriter, friend of Allen and organizer of his retrospective exhibition in 2000, wrote: "the cover illustration caught my eye as much as the music caught my ear. It was the first time I'd ever seen anything other than a photograph on a record sleeve. I thought it was brilliant. It gave the musicians a kind of immortality. I noticed that the artist's name was Thomas B. Allen. . . . I firmly believe that Tom Allen should he knighted as American music's patron saint to the arts. His work is as timeless as the music itself. He is a master who can bring art to life in its most complex form, yet his genius is knowing how to present it in a way that even an eight-year-old child in a dime store can understand." (

Thomas B. Allen was raised in Nashville and grew up playing outdoors in a rural setting. He studied at Vanderbilt University and then earned a B.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and for three years lived in a cabin on a pond in New York State, where he drew, painted and wrote poetry. He also traveled widely included to Cuba, which he first visited at age twelve, Central America and Europe.

He began working for Flatt and Scruggs after illustrating a story about them in a 1959 issue of "Esquire" magazine.

For his illustration work Thomas B. Allen earned the New York Art Directors Club Gold Medal and a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators. From 1968 to 1964, he taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and had also had teaching assignments at the Parsons School of Design (1974-75), Syracuse University (1975-1978, the University of Kansas (1982-94) holding the Hallmark Chair, and the Ringling School of Art and Design beginning 1995 where he chaired the Department of Illustration.

From 2000 to 2002, a retrospective exhibition of work by Thomas Allen was held in Nashville in Ryman Auditorium, performing venue of the Grand Ole Opry. Titled "The Journey of an American Illustrator", the exhibition, organized by Marty Stuart, was a tribute to a native son and good friend of the Grand Ole Opry. Earl Scruggs was the featured performer at the special dedication concert called "The Great American Folk Boom". Of the event and its honoree, Stuart said: "Tom is somebody who really understands art and music as walking hand in hand. . . .this is an excuse to get together fine art and honest-to-God American music." (Marty Stuart)

Sources include:
Walt Reed, "The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000" (Courtesy Robert Burns) (Houghton Mifflin, 'Meet the Illustrator'
Marty Stuart---

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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