DescriptionLeslie Prince Thompson (American, 1880-1963)
The Chinese Coat, 1923
Oil on canvas
56 x 46 inches (142.2 x 116.8 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Leslie P. Thompson 1923
Mr. & Mrs. William K. Jackson, commissioned from the above;
N.E. Theatres, Inc. (Metropolitan Theatre), Boston, Massachusetts, until 1962;
Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts, 1962;
Private collection, New York;
Private collection, Seekonk, Massachusetts, until 1984;
Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts, 1984;
Private collection, Dallas, acquired from the above, 1985.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, "The Thirty-Sixth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture," November 1-December 9, 1923;
National Academy of Design, New York, 1923, no. 252;
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "The One Hundred and Nineteenth Annual Exhibit," 1924;
National Academy of Design, New York, 1930;
Guild of Boston Artists, Boston, Massachusetts, 1939, (as Portrait of Miss Katharine Jackson).
Guild of Boston Artists, exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1939, illustrated on the cover.
One of Boston's most celebrated portraitists, Leslie Prince Thompson is best known for his sophisticated and handsomely rendered depictions of the leisure class. Together with artists Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, and William Paxton, Thompson was a prominent member of the early twentieth-century Boston School of painters, and though his work is exceedingly rare, he was a central figure in the burgeoning American Impressionist movement.
Thompson's foremost influence and mentor was Edmund Tarbell, with whom he studied at Boston's Museum School from 1901 to 1904. The young artist then went on to study at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, was awarded a Paige Scholarship and embarked for Europe to study the Old Masters and French Impressionists. Upon his return to Boston, Thompson resumed instruction from Tarbell and E.L. Major and became well known for confidently handled impressionistic canvases of lavish interiors, stylish portraiture, and refined beach scenes and landscapes.
The Chinese Coat, presumably one of Thompson's most sumptuous and elegant society portraits, depicts a young patrician woman in a subtle interior adorned only with jewel-like floral accents. In this scene, though the young woman herself is attractive and stately, it is her exquisite attire that takes center stage. Draped in an opulent Chinese silk kimono-style jacket over a cascading taffeta gown, this young blue-blooded woman's garb would have represented for an early twentieth century society, just as it would today, the epitome of utter refinement, sophistication and affluence. Indeed, to be the proud bearer of such an expensive and exotic item of imported fashion was a supreme privilege, and by depicting his subject in her most lavish dress was for Thompson, as well as his well-bred New England patronage, the pinnacle of fashionable portraiture. Ultimately, with its skilled brushwork, striking color and graceful charm, it is the lovely decorative quality of this masterwork that was Thompson's greatest achievement.
Thompson primarily worked and painted at the Fenway Studios on 30 Ipswich Street in Boston. A barn fire in 1939 destroyed nearly all contents of Fenway Studios, and as a result, hundreds of works by the artist were lost. Subsequently, scant material by Thompson appears on the market. The Chinese Coat is a rarely seen tour de force by the artist, and arguably the most important painting to come to market in recent years.
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