Florence Young Thomas
Leaving a Legacy
Florence Thomas Art School, Inc. is a non-profit art school made possible by the late Florence Thomas. She was a soft-spoken farm woman, was probably the greatest artist with many hundreds of paintings the High Country has ever produced. Born in 1909 in Ashe County, North Carolina, she lived nearby until her life ended peacefully on March 30, 2007, at age 98.
Florence Young (Thomas) was a remarkable woman. She began her formal study of art in 1930, when she traveled to Pennsylvania to study at The Philadelphia School of Design for Women. In 1931 her studies were interrupted by illness and she returned home. Later that same year she married Paul Thomas and settled on a large farm located on the NC/VA border. She continued to seek professional art instruction, traveling along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida and, at one point, studied with Carolyn Wyeth, sister of Andrew, in Chadds Ford, PA.
Florence is known for her impressionistic style, no doubt influenced by the time spent with Carolyn. Critiquing herself, Florence said, “I don’t put much detail in my paintings because if you tell everything you know about something and just load it with detail, its like a person that gossips and talks too much, you don’t allow the viewer to enter into the picture.”
For twenty years Florence taught painting in the basement of her home. Offering the opportunity for instruction to others in the region was important to her. She stated, “I tried to teach the fundamentals so they could go from there and work on their own. I told them if they lost their originality, they’ve lost everything.”
Eventually, Florence retired from teaching and returned her focus, once again, to her own painting. She helped form the Blue Ridge Art Clan in Ashe County to pool resources, “so we could bring teachers to the county and my students could continue to get critiques on their work.”
In her lifetime, she painted hundreds of paintings, capturing the soul and the mystery, and ultimately the comfort, of common things, farm animals, flowers, landscapes. Her paintings convey a certain mood, vivid color, and warmth that draw the viewer into a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Upon her passing, Florence provided the means to establish a non-profit art school in Ashe County, thus continuing her legacy of providing quality instruction in the arts.
In 2008, Florence’s dream was realized when the school held its first workshops. With continued growth and support, the spirit and lessons of her presence will continue to inspire students well into the future.