Thomas S. Mairs

Thomas MairsThomas S. Mairs, 1975 graduate (b.1949 – d.2003) was the first student of Richard Lack. He graduated from Saint Paul Academy in 1967, then attended Yale University. He studied with Richard Lack part time in high school and returned to Minnesota to study full time in Lack’s newly formed Atelier. He developed into one of the finest draftsmen of his generation. As a painter, he combined a subtlety of color and edge observation with a suavity of touch and finish. His mind was not, and could not, be satisfied by half measures or cursory visual statements, yet the bravura touch of a Master was not lost on him, as his stunning copy of Van Dyck’s Cornelis van der Geest proved. His hero was Ingres, and that artist maintained the paramount position in his personal pantheon. Ingres’ dictum that “Drawing is the probity of Art” was Mairs’ artistic directive. He also admired Frederic, Lord Leighton, and was very interested in the Imaginative Art of R. H. Ives Gammell. His breadth of understanding included all styles and genres and allowed him to appreciate the strengths and assess the weaknesses of each. His powers of analysis were formidable, and he was a master of trenchant maxims, such as “Monet was the major exponent of a minor branch of art.”

Mairs was an admirable teacher. After leaving Atelier Lack he taught with fellow Lack alumnus James Childs in their atelier in Saint Paul. Anyone who applied to him as a sincere acolyte of Art benefited from his enormous repository of theory and practice. However, though never unkind, he did not suffer fools gladly. Mairs moved to Boston in the early 1980s and rented a studio in the historic Fenway Building. His superb studies after Ingres at the Fogg Museum earned him the respect of Agnes Mongan and the other renowned Ingres scholars there. He built a small but important collection of Art and objet d’art. Mairs was an artist of the exquisite. His surviving works are few, and seldom met with his own approbation or were noticed by others. Few were those who knew his work and sadly, fewer still those who appreciated it. It took a connoisseur to grasp their value. A linguist, Mairs read German, French, and some Latin. At the time of his death, he was completing Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past in French, with his usual attention to all relevant sources and corollary material, plus comparative studies in the Iliad and Odyssey. Music was also important to him. He loved Brahms and early music, but could appreciate the best of all periods and styles. He was friends with the remarkable cellist, Annette Costanzi, and was himself an accomplished pianist.

Thomas S. Mairs had the mind of a genius, a compassionate heart, a mordant sense of humor, and great personal and artistic courage. He always seemed ahead of us and now he still is – knowing the final thing. Aveat que vale. Friend, hail and farewell.1

Thomas Mairs, Mary

Mary, 1974
Oill on canvas, 17 x 13

Thomas Mairs, Self Portrait after J. A. D. Ingres

Self Portrait after J. A. D. Ingres, 1987
Charcoal and white chalk on paper, 20 x 93/8

Thomas Mairs, Tile Design Studies

Tile Design Studies

Thomas Mairs, Hooded and Robed Cast

Hooded and Robed Cast, 1972-1973
Oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 16 2/3

Thomas Mairs, James

James, 1975
Charcoal and white chalk on paper,
15 1/2 x 9 3/8

Thomas Mairs, Vase with Handles

Vase with Handles, 2012
Oil on canvas, 20 x 30