Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 4
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For more than a cen-
tury, members of the
Thurston family have
been painting in El
Paso. Tom and Fannie
Thurston, along with
their sons, Eugene and
Charlie, arrived in El "
Paso from Memphis,
Tennessee in 1906. As
an artist, Fannie pre-
ferred the name Fern.
She used her first initial
when signing her work,
and to make her signa-
ture unique, she crossed
each t in her last name
twice. Thurston painted
the mountains and vil- . i-
lages around El Paso,
but the most sought
after of her paintings
were those depicting
flowers. She exhibited her work in shows at the Woman's
Club, Garden Club, and Chamber of Commerce, and in
time became a member of the Woman's Club Art Study
Club, the El Paso Art Guild, and the El Paso Art Association.
When Eugene, her older son, became an artist, they some-
times exhibited together. Today, Fern Thurston's paintings
can be found in collections including the Texas Capitol
Historical Artifacts Collection, the Panhandle-Plains
Historical Museum, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the
University of Texas at El Paso Library.
Eugene Thurston's career in art lasted more than seven
decades. As a student at El Paso High School, he was editor
and cartoonist for the Tattler, the school's literary publica-
tion. By 1916, he was drawing commercial advertisements
for local companies; his first political cartoon was published
in the El Paso Herald newspaper the next year. Following
graduation and army service in World War I, Eugene
Thurston returned to El Paso and married Anna Lind of
Albuquerque, New Mexico. After taking correspondence
courses in the 1920s, he started a greeting card business that
grew to have outlets from Santa Fe, New Mexico to San
Antonio. However, his real passion was painting the West
with its high mountains, impressive skies, and vast deserts.
Thurston studied painting with Dey de Ribcowski, an inter-
nationally known artist, and began exhibiting in shows in
New York, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. At
the 1924 Southwest International Exposition, he won first
prize and was voted most promising young artist. That year
he also published a series of political cartoons opposing
attempts by the Ku Klux Klan to field a candidate for mayor
of El Paso. In 1927, his work was selected for the Texas
Wildflower Competitive Exhibition in San Antonio, and one
year later, the New Mexico Federated Woman's Clubs chose
Thurston's work for an exhibit that traveled throughout that
state. He was instrumental in founding the Del Norte Arts
and Crafts Guild and the Far Southwest Artist Association.
In 1940, Thurston began teaching commercial art at El Paso
Technical Institute, and for more than 25 years, he passed on
his knowledge to young artists. In 1949, he helped organize
the first Sun Carnival Exhibit, and one year later, the still-
active El Paso Art Association. A charter member of the El
Paso Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters,
Thurston retired from teaching in 1966 but continued paint-
ing until age 93. His work is in many collections, including
4 TEXASHERITAGEI Volume 1 2011
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 1, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254220/m1/4/: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.