Marjorie Thomas: Arizona Art Pioneer (December 20, 2016 – January 7, 2018)

Marjorie Thomas: Arizona Art Pioneer showcases the artwork of trailblazer, artist and early Scottsdale resident Marjorie Thomas (1885-1978), whose life and career link the chronicle of Arizona’s art and history. The exhibition is guest curated by Betsy Fahlman, Ph.D. and includes artworks from public and private collections. Dr. Fahlman is a member of the museum’s board of directors and a professor of art history at Arizona State University.

As Scottsdale’s first professional artist, Marjorie Thomas occupies a special place in the history of Arizona. Arriving from Massachusetts before statehood, she witnessed at first hand many changes in Scottsdale and the state that became her home. The artist’s bucolic scenes depict Scottsdale in its early days, when throngs of sheep headed for pasture crowded downtown streets and mules were used to construct the Arizona Canal. Her drawings and paintings portray desert landscapes, Native peoples and ranch scenes, often including imagery of the donkeys, horses and sheep that played an integral role in the region’s early history.

Marjorie Thomas’ art and career highlights a significant time when the state’s early art community was almost entirely female. The women who arrived to Arizona in the first two decades of the twentieth century were independent spirits who relished an exhilarating personal freedom from the rigid social constraints of the East. Inspired by the state’s spectacular landscape and by encounters with American Indians, these women reinvented themselves in a state with few artistic amenities.


  1. “Marjorie Thomas: Arizona Art Pioneer” exhibition; Photo by Loren Anderson Photography.
  2. Marjorie Thomas, “Grey Burro,” c. 1930s, oil on canvas; Collection of Frances and Edward Elliott.
  3. Marjorie Thomas, “The Stragglers,” 1934, oil on canvas; Arizona Collection, Arizona State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections.
Derek Earle Emergence Gallery