James Thomas Flexner
|James Thomas Flexner|
January 13, 1908|
New York City, New York City
|Died||February 13, 2003
New York City
|Spouse||Beatrice Hudson Flexner|
James Thomas Flexner (January 13, 1908 – February 13, 2003) was an American historian and biographer best known for the four-volume biography of George Washington that earned him a National Book Award in Biography and a special Pulitzer Prize. His one-volume abridgment, Washington: the Indispensable Man (1974) was the basis of two television miniseries broadcast in the mid-1980s starring Barry Bostwick as Washington.
James Thomas Flexner was born January 13, 1908 in Manhattan. His father was Simon Flexner, a sixth-grade dropout who became a self-taught microbiologist, pathologist, director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City and discoverer of a cure for spinal meningitis. His mother was Helen Thomas [Flexner], a professor of English at Bryn Mawr whose sister was president of the college. In 1929, Flexner graduated cum laude from Harvard University, and found work as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. In 1931, he took a position at the New York City Department of Health as an executive secretary. The following year, he left his job to devote his full energies to writing. Although untrained in art history, he gravitated to art subjects as part of his interest in writing about American history.
Flexner is known best for George Washington, a four-volume biography published by Little, Brown from 1965 to 1972. He won a special Pulitzer Prize for the work in 1973. He wrote other historical biographies, including The Young Hamilton (on Alexander Hamilton), Mohawk Baronet (on Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet), and The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John Andre. He wrote many books on the history of American art, including a highly regarded life of the American painter John Singleton Copley. He and his father, Simon Flexner, M.D., co-wrote William Henry Welch and the Heroic Age of American Medicine (1941). (His uncle, Abraham Flexner, was the educator whose 1910 report led to the reform of United States medical schools.)
James Thomas Flexner died February 13, 2003 at his apartment in New York City at the age of 95.
- A Short History of American Painting. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1950.
- America's Old Masters: First Artists of the New World. New York: The Viking Press, 1939.
- An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984.
- Asher B. Durand: An Engraver's and a Farmer's Art. Yonkers: The Hudson River Museum, 1983.
- Doctors on Horseback: Pioneers of American Medicine. New York: Viking Press, 1937.
- George Washington, the Forge of Experience, 1732–1775. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1965.
- George Washington in the American Revolution, 1775–1783. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1968.
- George Washington and the New Nation, 1783–1793. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970.
- George Washington, Anguish and Farewell, 1793–1799. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.
- Gilbert Stuart; a Great Life in Brief New York: Knopf, 1955.
- History of American Painting Volume 1: First Flowers of Our Wilderness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1947.
- History of American Painting Volume 2: The Light of Distant Skies, 1760–1835. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1954.
- History of American Painting Volume 3: That Wilder Image; the Painting of America's Native School. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962.
- John Singleton Copley. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1948.
- Lord of the Mohawks A Biography of Sir William Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984.
- Maverick's Progress: An Autobiography. New York: Fordham University Press, 1996.
- Nineteenth Century American Painting. New York: Putnam, 1970.
- Paintings on the Century's Walls. New York: Century Association, 1963.
- Random Harvest. New York: Fordham University Press, 1998.
- States Dyckman: American Loyalist. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980.
- Steamboats Come True: American Inventors in Action. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978.
- The Double Adventure of John Singleton Copley. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969.
- The Face of Liberty: Founders of the United States. Clarkson N. Potter, 1975.
- The Pocket History of American Painting. Pocket Library, 1957.
- The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John Andre. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1953.
- The World of Winslow Homer 1836–1910. New York: Time, Inc., 1966.
- The Young Hamilton: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978.
- Time-Life Library of Art: The World of Winslow Homer. New York: Time-Life Books, 1980.
- Washington: the Indispensable Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.
- "National Book Awards – 1973". National Book Foundation. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
- "Special Awards and Citations". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- Martin, Douglas. "James Thomas Flexner, Washington Biographer, 95, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- Oliver, Myrna. "James Flexner, 95; Acclaimed Biographer of George Washington". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- "James Thomas Flexner". Dictionary of Art Historians. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- "James Thomas Flexner (1908–2003)". Library Thing. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- Interview about Maverick's Progress: An Autobiography, Booknotes, June 2, 1996
- James Thomas Flexner at Library of Congress Authorities, with 57 catalog records
- Appearances on C-SPAN