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Thomas Gibbs Moses

 (1856 - 1934)
Thomas Gibbs Moses was active/lived in Illinois, California.  Thomas Moses is known for scenic design, panoramic mural.

Thomas Gibbs Moses

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Thomas Gibbs Moses
The following is from Wendy Waszut-Barrett who took her information from the artist's diary titled "My Diary by Thomas Gibbs Moses".

Thomas Gibbs Moses was born in Liverpool, England, July 21, 1856. His father was Lucius M. Moses, who was born in Great Falls, New Hampshire, August 21, 1822. His mother, Mary Wingate Titcomb was born in Wells Beach, Maine, May 14, 1825. They were married on August 14, 1849.

His father was a sea captain, which is why Moses was born in England. However, his parents neglected to register their son's birth in England, an omission that caused great embarrassment throughout his life. Moses came from a family of seven children (Kate, Lucius, Thomas, Lucia, Frank, Illie and Little Kate) The elder Kate had died at sea and the youngest Kate was named after her.

In 1859, the Moses family moved West to Southern California after his father sold out his interests in the shipping company. His father started a tannery business. When his mother died, Illie and Lucia went back East to live with the aunt. The remaining four children stayed with their father. Thomas attributes his "art bug" from his mother and prized her sketch book.

Moses' artistic career began during April, 1873. He was an assistant to Mr. L. Malmasha, the head designer at P.M. Almini Company. During his entire artistic career, Moses remained a scenic artist for the theatre. His work also appeared in residential homes, churches, amusement parks, Masonic temples, and expositions.

He married his sweetheart Ella in 1877. Sosman and Landis, a scenic studio in Chicago, Illinois, is the descendant of his original company. Eventually, Moses became the president of the company. He worked "and and off" for this business from 1880-1931, when he sold the company to a Mr. Lemle.

Moses also had several of his own companies between working for Sosman and Landis. Some of them include Moses and Hamilton - Burridge, Moses and Louderback, and the New York Studios that were extensions of Sosman and Landis.

Moses also spent several years working in New York including Broadway Theatres and Coney Island (1899-1904). In every town, he wished to become known for his fine art, and continued to join a series of artistic organization: The Palette and Chisel Club, the Salmagundi Club, the Chicago Art Society, the California Art Club and others.

His greatest work, however, was created in Masonic Temples across the Midwest and West. He constantly travelled creating hundreds of drops for Masonic theatres where each Masonic degree in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry could be staged as a theatrical production.

Artists that he worked with include, Lou Graham, Walter Burridge, Frank C. Bromely, John Young, Howard Tuttle, Walter Louderback, Ed Loitz, Joe Hart, William and Charlie Minor, Harry Vincent, Port McGreer, Harry Naile, and many others too numerous to mention. He continued to actively paint scenery until 1932. He eventually joined Freemasonry after painting many of the temples.

Moses died in 1934.
Note from Wendy Waszut-Barrett:

I have studied Thomas Moses and his contemporaries in the theatre since 1987. Currently, I restore extant backdrops with the same dry pigment/ animal glue paint system that Moses used. I am completing my doctorate at the University of Minnesota in Theatre. In addition to art restoration, my topic is "Staging the Scottish Rite: Designing for Masonic Theatre."

"Work freely and passionately, you will make progress and sooner or later if you have any worth they will recognize it." -Paul Gauguin (letter to Emile Schuffenecker, 1885).

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Thomas Gibbs Moses
Born in Liverpool, England on July 21, 1856, the son of an American sea captain. By the early 1870s Moses had settled in Chicago and was studying at the AIC. He began painting scenery in theaters and Masonic Temples, and traveled about the U.S. in this capacity, including those in Los Angeles in 1888. Returning to Chicago, he became president of Sosman & Landis Company, a theatrical scenery business. When not engaged in theatrical scenery, in his leisure he became a skilled landscape painter. Moses continued spending winters in Los Angeles throughout his lifetime and often made painting excursions to the High Sierra with his close friend Fitch Fulton. Moses had these dual residences until his death in Oak Park on March 17, 1934. Member: Calif. Art Club; Palette & Chisel Club; Laguna Beach AA; Salmagundi Club. Exh: Abbott Company (Chicago), 1891; Chicago Society of Artists, 1892.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Los Angeles Express, 9-1-1888; American Art Annual 1909-33; Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Index of Artists (Daniel Mallett); Chicago Tribune, 3-19-1934 (obituary).

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 Valley of Fort Scott, Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
The Valley of Fort Scott Scottish Rite Masonic Temple has 108 Backdrops that were originally painted by Thomas G. Moses in 1904. The paintings range from 30 feet by 50 feet for the full scene, and various "Legs" to make a 3D effect on the stage settings. There are 47 different scenes.

In 1924, the Scottish Rite Temple was rebuilt, with a larger stage, and Thomas G. Moses then repainted / retouched the backdrops, added 5 feet on each side to fit the new stage. Some of the drops still show visible changes that were made, in light charcoal sketches of what was planned, and what actually was painted.

Tours are available to show these backdrops, which show a variety of Scottish Rite Masonic themes, or generic settings. The Backdrops are all still in use, at least twice a year for the Scottish Rite Initiation Degrees. Scenes that are memorable are a Scottish setting with King Robert the Bruce's castle in the background; several chamber settings; a ruined city similar to King Solomon's Temple; a roman portico showing a lake and buildings; an Egyptian Sphinx; and several Cathedral scenes and outdoor scenes.

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About  Thomas Gibbs Moses

Born:  1856 - Liverpool, England
Died:   1934 - Oak Park, Illinois
Known for:  scenic design, panoramic mural

Essays referring to
Thomas Gibbs Moses

The California Art Club