Renowned Western artist Richard D. Thomas is dead at the age of 79. Mr. Thomas died February 15th in Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital following a short struggle with an aggressive form of cancer. In accordance with his wishes no services were held. Instead his ashes will be spread along the South Boulder River from the deck of his architecturally acclaimed studio near Cardwell in the foothills of the Tobacco Root Mountains in southern Montana where he has lived for nearly 20 years.
A self-‐taught artist who didn’t pick up a brush until he was almost 30, painting was a hobby while working as a high-‐tech defense equipment contractor. Following a divorce and losing his job due to a plant closing, Thomas decided to paint full time. He spent years perfecting his skills and showing his work at hotels, shopping malls and convention centers.
He soon found success and his paintings now hang in major private collections and have been exhibited at many shows, including Masters of the American West at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles and Western Visions at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY.
He once told a writer for Art of the West that his inspiration comes from the thousands of photographs he takes of his surroundings, going on cattle drives, roundups and powwows and referencing material from the state’s rich Native American history.
“If I could just paint everything that’s available to me, I could paint for another lifetime,” he said.
Thomas was born April 28, 1939 in Avenal, CA where he grew up and was an outstanding athlete, lettering in four sports, and served as student body president. After graduating in 1957 he attended Arizona State University on a baseball scholarship, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1961.
After college he joined the Marine Corps (1962-‐65) and was a highly decorated captain serving eight months in Vietnam.
Thomas is survived by his brother, Dave Thomas of Maricopa CA, sister Janis McCall of Taft, CA; niece Melany Crowe of Bakersfield, CA and nephew Dave Thomas of