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Thomas McGlynn


California Plein Air Artist

Gallery Historians

California Plein Air painter Thomas McGlynn’s created lyrical works that expressed a romantic view of the world. They are poetic representations of the California coastal areas McGlynn called home.

Table of Contents


Thomas A. McGlynn was born March 29, 1878 in San Francisco, California. As a child growing up in the Bay Area, McGlynn was fortunate to be part of the Columbia Park Boys Club, a forerunner to the Boy Scouts. The group not only provided the young boys with valuable knowledge of manual crafts, it also granted McGlynn the opportunity to begin his artistic training. At the age of thirteen, the young McGlynn got trapped under a lumber pile and his back was crushed. For the rest of his life he used either crutches or canes, but this never slowed his dedication to his art.

McGlynn’s formal art training began in 1899 with a full scholarship to the California School of Design. The director, Arthur Mathews was delighted with McGlynn’s craft background. A long and enduring friendship formed between the two men. During his years of enrollment at the California School of Design, McGlynn also met his bride to be Gertrude Gorter. The two often painted together near her parents home on the Russian River, and collaborated on a section of the University of California’s 1905 yearbook, The Blue and Gold.

After the earthquake in 1906, McGlynn began doing free-lance design for several businesses around the San Francisco area, and he taught at the University of California. One of McGlynn’s projects included creating designs for Beach-Robinson, a company that had offices in the Furniture Shop. In 1909, McGlynn accepted a position working for Mathews as the chief assistant at the Furniture Shop. He held this position for a decade, installing murals, supervising craftsmen and designing for the company. In the same year, McGlynn married Gertrude Gorter and the couple moved into a home at 1919 Clement St.

In 1915 the Panama-Pacific International Exposition came to San Francisco. Like many other artists, McGlynn was thrilled to have the opportunity to view and learn from original French Impressionist works of art on display at the Exposition. The impact on McGlynn resulted in a new focus in his artwork. He became less decorative and symbolic, focusing more on the effects of light.

After leaving the Furniture Shop in 1918, McGlynn began teaching art and craftsmanship to a younger generation of artists and artisans. He began at the Girl’s High School with stagecraft, drawing, and the history of art. Over the next twenty-seven years, McGlynn added courses at the Hebrew Orphanage and Galileo Evening School. Despite his long hours and dedication to teaching, McGlynn and his family continued to travel on the weekends and during summers, painting landscapes up and down the coast.

McGlynn returned regularly to the Monterey Peninsula and, in 1934, he was granted membership to the Carmel-by-the-Sea artist’s cooperative. The president of the cooperative, Armin Hansen had been in the 1906 class at California School of Design with McGlynn and invited him to join the group of plein air painters in Monterey. Despite his dedication to teaching, McGlynn and Gertrude could not resist the offer and soon bought a home in Pebble Beach. For a few years the family made the long trip on weekends and eventually they moved permanently to the spacious estate. Thomas A. McGlynn died at the age of eighty-eight in June of 1966.


Despite the changes in the art of Northern California, McGlynn’s lyric paintings convey a romantic view of the world. They are not photographic representations of the world around us; they are poetic representations of the coastal areas McGlynn called home. The golden light that passes across his canvas’ attest to the happiness he and his family always enjoyed.


  • 1878 Thomas A. McGlynn born March 29th in San Francisco
  • 1894 Member of Columbia Park Boys Club; editor of clubs first magazine (precursor of Boy Scouts)
  • 1891 Horrific back accident which leads to life of crutches and canes
  • 1899 Enrolls at the California School of Design; full scholarship
  • 1904 Editor for California School of Design yearbook Blue and Gold
  • 1906 Graduation from California School of Design
  • 1906 forms partnership with John Zeile creation of business called Furniture Shop
  • 1909-19 Full-time chief assistant for Arthur Matthews
  • 1909 McGlynn marries Gertrude Gorter
  • 1915 On International Jury of Awards Committee at Panama-Pacific International Exposition
  • 1918 Leaves the Furniture Shop; begins twenty-seven years if teaching craftsman methods to new generation
  • 1924 Teaches manual training course for young boys at the Hebrew Orphanage
  • 1934 Becomes member of Carmel Art Association; elected by Armin Hansen (president)
  • 1941 Moved permanently to Monterey Peninsula
  • 1951-52 President of Carmel Art Association
  • 1966 June 21, Thomas A. McGlynn dies at his Pebble Beach home

  • 1918 Service Award, United States Liberty Fair, Los Angeles
  • 1924 Honorable Mention, California State Fair
  • 1937,1938,1957 Honorable Mention, Santa Cruz Art League
  • 1938, 1939 Honorable Mention, Society for Sanity in Art
  • 1940, 1955 First Prize, Santa Cruz County Fair
  • 1943 Service Award, Art in National Defense
  • 1946 First Honorable Mention, American Artists Professional League

  • Carmel Art Association
  • Santa Cruz Art League
  • American Artists’ Professional League
  • The Society of Western Artists
  • The San Francisco chapter of the Society for Sanity in Art

  • 1918 Los Angeles Liberty Fair, CA
  • 1924, 1939-40 California State Fair
  • 1943 Art in National Defense
  • 1969 Carmel Museum, CA
  • 1970 Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA
  • 1982 San Mateo County Historical Society, CA

    1. 1. Westphal, Ruth. Plein Air Painters of California: The North. Westphal Publishing: California. 1986. Pg 114-119.

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