THOMPSON, Sydney Lough

Trees In Spring

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c.1930
Oil on Board
450 x 370mm

During the 1920s and 1930s Sydney Lough Thompson was the most popular painter in New Zealand. His success with the public in this country began on his return to Christchurch (where he was accorded a Civic Reception) in 1923 after eleven years spent in France. He introduced the New Zealand public to the solid brushstrokes and explosive colour of post impressionism, innovations it was keen to accept as sales figures immediately indicated. In 1925 he returned to Brittany and Provence, returning home again in 1935 where his position was firmly consolidated. In all he made seven trips back and forth, dying at the age of 96 in France at Concarneau.

Thompson’s interest in art began in Christchurch when he first saw paintings by the Dutch artist Petrus van der Velden, who had settled there. He went to the School of Art and to van der Velden’s studio where he closely observed a professional painter’s working methods and listened to the bohemian artist’s pronouncements on life and art. On his first trip, made in his early 20s, he drew and painted at the Academie Julien in Paris and then left for the Breton coast. At the fishing village of Concarneau painters from all over the world gathered to work in the open air (plein air painting was one of the most enduring legacies of the Impressionist movement) rather than in studios. The aim of these artists was to capture the play of light on objects and to record the daily life of local people.

They were above all interested in seascapes, fishing scenes and landscapes. Trees in Spring is one of Sydney Lough Thompson’s finest small paintings. It is interesting to compare the generalised view of the work observed from a distance with the effect of looking at it close up, You will see the number of small brush strokes with which its surface is made up. Contrasting colours are often directly juxtaposed and it is this which gives the work its immediacy and freshness.