Born in Chicago 1914, died 1991
Studied under Louis Ritman at the Chicago Art Institute
Successful commercial illustration career including World War II Bond Posters and Saturday Evening Post
Worked for Haddon Sundblom Studios (responsible for many famous Coca-Cola ads of the era)
Left commercial illustration in 1959 to pursue a career in fine art
Sold the majority of his work through the Richard Thompson Gallery (owned and operated by his son Richard Thompson, Jr.) located on Maiden Lane, San Francisco
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 been compared to Monet, but preferred to think of himself as “an extension” to the impressionists “a continuing link.” Profoundly influenced by the Master of the French Impressionist School, he also embraced ideas from Spanish, Italian and American painters. 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 not 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.' 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 painting vary from subtle mood scenes and pleasant tranquil setting to high brilliance.
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 Chicago Art Institute 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.
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, let 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 Sundblom 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.
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 1959 with commercial illustration being replaced slowly by photography, he turned to fine art as a full time career. He credited his commercial art 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 Key with his supportive and lovely wife, Mary Munn during his highly productive years of fine art. He said 'I have thoroughly enjoyed my years of adventure in painting; they have provided me with a way to live. 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?” Collectors and admirers of Richard Earl Thompson's personal expressions of 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.
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum
R.W. Norton Art Gallery
Brigham Young University
De Sasset Museum
John Hopkins Hospital
Naval Art Collection, Pentagon, Washington, DC
Robert Louis Stevenson Academy
Wintergreen (Taliesen East) Recreational Complex
University of Washington
The Lewer Agency, Inc.
Southland Financial Corporation
Art Galleries of Wisconsin Memorial Park
Continental Illinois Bank
Numerous private collections