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 Thomas (Tom) Theodore Craig  (1909 - 1969)



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Lived/Active: California      Known for: landscape, portrait-figure, and genre painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Thomas Craig
1909 (Upland, California)
1969 (Upland, California)


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landscape, portrait-figure, and genre painting

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The California Art Club
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Upland, California, Tom Craig became a landscape, portrait and figure painter whose early career was in illustration but whose later focus was fine-art painting.  He became a major figure in The California Style* of watercolor painting.

As a young student, Craig studied botany at the University of California at Berkeley, and living in Los Angeles, continued botanical studies at Pomona College.  With a persistent interest in art, he studied briefly at Chouinard Art Institute* with Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Millard Sheets and Barse Miller.

In 1928, when he was 21, he got tuberculosis, and for his health, moved for several years to Palm Springs, California for the dry desert climate.  During this period, he became a serious fine-art painter, and returning to Los Angeles, studied with Frank Tolles Chamberlain and Clarence Hinkle. 

Watercolor became his favorite medium, and many of his paintings were worked in a very wet style, had soft colors, and "often depicted farm or rural scenes on misty, foggy, or rainy days." (McClelland, 48)  Because Northern California provided the climate conducive to this type of painting, he spent much time there, having recovered enough from the tuberculosis to be in that type of climate.

In the 1930s, he taught at Occidental College and at the University of Southern California, and in 1941, he traveled and painted throughout the Southwest on a Guggenheim Fellowship*.  He was a World War II artist correspondent in Italy for Life magazine, and after that time, painted only occasionally as his main interest became the raising of hybrid flowers, specializing in irises. 

In 1950, he settled in Escondido.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Gordon T. McClelland & Jay T. Last, The California Style, p. 48

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Tom Theodore Craig was born in Upland, CA on June 16, 1909.  Craig graduated from Pomona College in 1934 with a degree in botany.  Having always been interested in painting, during the 1930s he briefly studied at the Chouinard Art School with MacDonald-Wright, Chamberlin, Hinkle, Sheets, and Barse Miller.  He was an instructor at USC, Chouinard, and Occidental College (Los Angeles) in the 1930's.  A Guggenheim Fellowship in 1941 allowed him to travel and pursue an art career.  During WWII he was an artist-correspondent in Italy for Life  magazine.  Retiring from painting in 1950, Craig devoted his remaining years to cultivating and selling hybrid irises.  He died in Upland on Feb. 8, 1969.  His work includes landscapes and portraits in oil, tempera, and watercolor. 

Member: San Diego Art Guild; American Artists Congress; Penn. WC Society; SFAA; Bay Region AA.  

Exh:  LA AA, 1934 (3rd prize); Calif. Art Club, 1934-36; Calif. WC Society, 1934-46; Laguna Beach AA, 1936 (1st prize); Oakland Art Gallery, 1937; SFAA, 1936-37; CPLH, 1937 (solo); CGA, 1937; Santa Cruz Art League, 1938; GGIE, 1939; LA County Fair, 1940; Womans Club (Beverly Hills), 1941; De Young Museum, 1943 (self portrait); Chaffey AA (LA), 1947; Mt Washington Arts Festival (LA), 1951. 

In: MM; Chaffey Communities Cultural Center (Upland); LACMA; Santa Barbara Museum; Seattle Museum; Pomona College; AIC; CPLH.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
WWAA 1936-41; WWC 1942; WWPC 1951.

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from California Watercolor:
Thomas Craig (1909-1969) Born: Upland, CA; Studied: Pomona College (California), University of California (Berkeley), University of Southern California; Member: California Water Color Society, Philadelphia Water Color Society. Thomas Craig was born and raised near Los Angeles. After studying botany at the University of California (Berkeley), he received art instruction from F. Tolles Chamberlin, Clarence Hinkle and Millard Sheets in Southern California.

His innovative watercolors helped earn him a Guggenheim Fellowship in the early 1940s, which supported a painting trip across America. After serving as a war artist in World War II, Craig stopped painting and went back to his botanical interests.

Although he actively painted and exhibited for only about twenty years, he played an important role in the development of the California Style of watercolor painting. His works were exhibited in many important shows including the California Group traveling exhibitions.

Biographical information:
Interview with Mrs. Thomas Craig, 1983.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,
©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

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

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