An interest in Petrus van der Velden's painting led Thompson to register as a student at Canterbury College School of Art in 1895 and to take lessons at van der Velden's studio. Thompson won awards and, with parental assistance, left to study abroad. On his return, as an instructor at his old art college, he established a reputation at first as a portraitist, and later as one of New Zealand's most celebrated contemporary artists. For most of his life he divided his time between France and New Zealand where he lectured and exhibited widely. His career spanned seven decades, and although he has been criticised for conservatism, in the early 1920s he absorbed the varied stylistic currents of post impressionism and worked out his new artistic direction. He painted out of doors, capturing colour and movement with the firm, fluid brushstrokes that became his trademark. He introduced New Zealanders to some of the advances in modern European art and his brushwork, use of bright colour and tonal relationships presented new directions and influenced a number of Canterbury artists.
© 2016 The New Zealand Portrait Gallery Trust