Distinguished Artist Series


Richard Earl Thompson (1914-1991)


Richard Earl Thompson's legacy to the world is the gift of enduring beauty - nature captured on canvas in all its myriad moods. An American Impressionist of renown, he has often been compared to Monet, but preferred to think of himself as "an extension" to the Impressionists - "a continuing link." Profoundly influenced by the Masters of the French Impressionist School, he also embraced ideas from German, Italian and American painters.

Images from left to right: Searching for Sea Shells, Fouras, France, 1971, 20 x 24 inches, Colection of Lorry A. Widget, M. D., Inc.; Spring Bouquet, 1974, 20 x 24 inches, Private Collection; Foggy Ridge, 1981, 24 x 36 inches, Private Collection; Sugar Maple, 1979, 20 x 16 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thompson, Jr.

Creating his own unique style by incorporating a broader 20th century color palette, which included earth tones, and combining painting techniques, Thompson's canvases convey a powerful and harmonious combination of diversified subject matter, exquisite brush work, skillful draftsmanship and luminosity. He summed up his painting simply,"I hope I have sincerity. I have tried to interpret things as I feel inside. I have tried nor to be something I am not. No shock treatments, no political messages, compositions based rather on tranquil scenes - a sincere approach to painting to which all people can relate. When drawing, the proportion is pretty well established, and I like to devote time to the color of things as the sun creates them. Color, then, is unlimited; it is ever-changing. I see myself not as an extension of the camera, but of the emotions these colors can evoke." (left: Richard Earl Thompson, 1977)

"A painting that doesn't have to be explained, but simply portrays a beautiful feeling to which people can relate, is communication."

He remarked that today we have colors at our fingertips that the early Impressionists lacked so we can arrive at even greater variations of light and color. Through the years he perfected the use of color to such an extent that his paintings vary from subtle mood scenes and pleasant, tranquil settings to high brilliance.

Images from left to right: End of an Era, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 1981, 20 x 14 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur E. W. Barrett, Jr.; Spring Lavender, 1986, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches, Private Collection; Pink Azaleas, 1987, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, Private Collection; Spring Azaleas, 1987, oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches, Private Collection

A child prodigy at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art at the age:of 15, he was taken under the wing of Frederick Grant who was a student of William Merritt Chase, one of America's great painters. From there he continued at the American Academy of Art and then on to the Art Institute of Chicago to study under Louis Ritman. He felt strongly that the fundamental training of drawing, color and composition instilled in those early days provided him the sound basis from which to develop his mature technique.

Images from left to right: Winter Walk, 1975, 16 x 20 inches, Collection of Mrs. Lindy D. Sillins; Les Canadians, 1980, 24 x 36 inches, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thompson, Jr.; New Fallen Snow, 1980, 30 x 40 inches, Collection of Mr and Mrs. Frank Polanish; Downwind, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 1977, 24 x 30 inches, Private Collection.

Both musically and artistically gifted, at the age of 18 he made the decision to pursue a career in art rather than opera. He felt that he had to paint in order to live fully. Thompson often compared art to music, feeling that they were akin, only communication in a different form. He has stated, "The world is looking for this communication. A painting that doesn't have to be explained, but simply portrays a beautiful feeling to which people can relate, is communication."

The combination of the Depression with the insurgence of the Modern Art Era, and the necessity of supporting a family, led Thompson to choose an early career in commercial art. Many will look back with a tinge of nostalgia recalling the back covers of the "Saturday Evening Post," some of which Thompson was responsible for while working with Haddon Sundbloom who created many of the famous Coca-Cola ads. Also among his commercial art credits are the famous World War II War bond posters which he was commissioned to paint by the U.S. Government.

Images from left to right: Repose, 1962, 23 x 16 inches, Private Collection; To Be There, 1982, 28 x 20 inches, Collection of Mrs. Diane B. Connor; Holiday, Deauville, France, 1973, 24 x 30 inches, Private Collection; Early Morning Stroll, Normandy, France, 1973, 24 x 36 inches, Private Collection.

Distinguished and highly successful as his commercial art career was, he never gave up his ambition to have the "fine art" career for which he had been trained. In l959, with commercial art being replaced slowly by photography, he turned to fine art as a full time career none the less crediting his commercial background with aiding him in his ability to do figures so well and to combine landscapes and figurative works so dramatically.

Sensitive to nuance, Thompson lived a very special life among nature in the woods of Wisconsin and on the shores of the Florida Keys with his supportive and lovely wife, Mary Munn during the highly productive years of his fine art career. He said, " I have thoroughly enjoyed my years of adventure in painting; they have provided me with a way to live, but I have now surrounded myself with a lifestyle of semi-privacy, which one must maintain in order to accomplish anything great in a profession. What is most important to me now is doing the thing I've always wanted to do, surrounded by nature and those who are closest to me. What more can any man ask!"

Images from left to right: Fixing Her Hair, 1977, 30 x 40 inches, Collection of Mr. Duane B.Garrett; Cooling Off,1980, 24 x 36 inches, Private Collection; Evening Sail, 1981, 30 x 40 inches, Private Collection; The Flowering Arches, Giverny, 1989, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches, Private Collection.

Collectors and admirers of Richard Earl Thompson's personal expressions of the nature which he held so dear would agree: his "small moments of time" captured forever on canvas touch us, please the spirit and fill the soul with joy.

Please also read American Impressionism to Modernism: A Brief History, excerpted from the book titled Richard Earl Thompson, American Impressionist, A Prophetic Odyssey in Paint, authored by Patricia Jobe Pierce and edited by John Douglas Ingraham. Courtesy of Richard Thompson, Jr. of Cotati, CA. Mr Thompson may be reached at 707-664-1900.

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