Trees in Spring
c.1930, 445 x 365mm, Oil on board
Sydney Lough Thompson interest in art began in Ōtautahi 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 overseas trip, made in his early 20s, he drew and painted at the Académie Julian 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 was to capture the play of light on objects and to record the daily life of local people.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Thompson was the most popular painter in Aotearoa. His success with the public in this country began on his return to Ōtautahi (where he was accorded a Civic Reception) in 1923 after eleven years spent in France. He introduced the Aotearoa 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. By the time he came home again, in 1935, his position was firmly consolidated. In all, he made seven trips back and forth between Aotearoa and France. He died at the age of 96 at Concarneau.
A more extensive biography is available on Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.