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Finding aid for the David Croal Thomson papers, 1879-1931
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: David Croal Thomson papers
    Date (inclusive): 1879-1931
    Number: 910126
    Creator/Collector: Thomson, David Croal, 1855-1930
    Physical Description: 4.75 linear feet (circa 3100 items)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: English art dealer and writer, Thomson (1855-1930) worked at or managed several major galleries in London and edited the Art Journal. The papers primarily contain professional and personal correspondence. Letters to and from leading artists and social figures trace artistic trends and tastes as well as Thomson's growing stature in London society. Personal correspondence consists largely of letters between members of Thomson's family. The collection includes a small number of clippings, itineraries, and ephemera.
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    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    David Croal Thomson was born in Edinburgh on October 24, 1855. He studied drawing and painting in Edinburgh, where he also apprenticed as a printseller and artist's colourman (1867), and went on to manage Hill's Picture Gallery and its art publications (1872-1880). He then went to Paris to continue his studies in art.
    In London, September 1880, he became the sub-editor of The Year's Art, assisting M. B. Huish until 1885. He also published a number of papers in the Scotsman and wrote its annual articles on the Paris Salon. From 1881-1888 he was the sub-editor of the Art Journal and served as editor from 1892-1902.
    During 1885-1897, he served as representative in London to the Paris house of Boussod Valadon & Co. Thomson was the first director of the Goupil Gallery in London. In this capacity, he arranged important exhibitions of the best works of Corot, Daubigny, Diaz and Tryon, of the modern Dutch painters, and of James McNeill Whistler, John Lavery, P. Wilson Steer and the English Impressionists. He also selected and superintended the illustrations to John Skelton's, Mary Stuart, 1893; the Bishop of London's Queen Elizabeth, 1896; Mr. R. R. Holmes's, Queen Victoria, 1897; and John Skelton's, Charles I, 1898.
    From 1898 to 1908 Thomson was connected with the London house of Agnew, and a partner in the firm for six years. From 1909 to 1918 he served as a partner in the French Gallery, which mounted exhibitions of the works of Henry Raeburn, William Maris, Joseph Israels, Anton Mauve, Fantin-Latour and Lhermitte. He went on to become the sole proprietor of Barbizon House (1918 to 1924), a semi-private residence that showed examples of the Barbizon School of painters. His son Lockett Thomson joined him as partner in 1924. Thomson examined public and private art collections in Great Britain, France and throughout the continent and visited Canada and the United States several times.
    His publications include, Life and Work of Thomas Bewick, 1882; Life and Work of H. K. Browne ("Phiz"), 1884; Barbizon School of Painters, 1890; Corot, 1892; Luke Fildes, R.A., 1895; Fifty Years of Art, 1899; Paris Exhibition, 1900; The Brothers Maris, 1907; Landscapes of Corot, 1911; Matthew Maris: a souvenir, 1918; and the Barbizon House Record (a yearly illustrated publication), from 1919. He also contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica and other art periodicals.
    Thomson married Alice Mary Halton in 1884 and had four sons, Lockett, Herbert, David, and Walter; and five daughters, Evelyne, Irene, Millicent, Marian and Elsie. He died in 1930.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    David Croal Thomson papers, 1832-1935, Research Library, The Getty Research Insititute, Accession no. 910126

    Acquisition Information

    The Getty acquired the David Croal Thomson Papers in 1991.

    Processing History

    Rose Lachman organized the correspondence, cataloged the collection, and wrote the finding aid in April/May, 1998.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The David Croal Thomson Papers contain ca. 1,600 letters from artists, friends, relatives, and businesses. The letters reflect his close contact with leading art dealers and artists in his capacity as critic, gallerist, and editor. Approximately half of the letters relate to Thomson's positions in the London, Goupil Gallery, the French Gallery and Barbizon House. Many letters refer to the Art Journal, the publication Thomson edited between 1892-1902. These letters reflect art trends and tastes, as well as what was being purchased, and by whom, at the turn of the century. A few letters by Thomson are among the letters from artists and friends. There are also some letters to Hill's Picture Gallery that predate Thomson's employment there. The second half of the archive contains correspondence between members of Thomson's family, arranged by correspondent chronologically from 1895-1931. The letters are primarily to his son, Herbert, born 1892, from Thomson and other members of the family.

    Arrangement note

    Organized in 3 series: Series I. Letters from artists, dealers and friends, ca. 1850-1930; Series II. Family correspondence, ca. 1895-1931; Series III. Printed ephemera and miscellaneous papers

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Thomson, David Croal, 1855-1930

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Barbizon House (London, England)
    French Gallery (London, England)
    Goupil Gallery
    Thomas Agnew & Sons

    Subjects - Topics

    Art critics
    Art critics--England
    Art dealers
    Art periodicals
    Painting, British--19th century
    Painting, British--20th century

    Subjects - Titles

    Art-journal Studio (London, England) Year's art


    Alma-Tadema, Lawrence, Sir, 1836-1912
    Baldry, A. L. (Alfred Lys), 1858-1939
    Barbizon House (London, England)
    Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959
    Bouguereau, William Adolphe, 1825-1905
    Bracquemond, Félix, 1833-1914
    Brangwyn, Frank, Sir, 1867-1956
    Brown, Ford Madox, 1821-1893
    Burne-Jones, Edward Coley, 1833-1898
    Cameron, David Young, Sir, 1865-1945
    Fildes, Luke, Sir, 1844-1927
    French Gallery (London, England)
    Guthrie, James, b. 1874
    Israëls, Jozef, 1824-1911
    Kingsley, Rose Georgina, 1845 or 6-1925
    Lavery, John, 1856-1941
    MacWhirter, John, 1839-1911
    Monkhouse, W. Cosmo (William Cosmo), 1840-1901
    Moore, Henry, 1898-1986
    Pennell, Joseph, 1857-1926
    Sambourne, Linley, 1844-1910
    Sharp , William, 1855-1905
    Sickert, Walter, 1860-1942
    Skelton, John, Sir, 1831-1897
    Stephens, Frederic George, 1828-1907
    Stevenson, Robert Alan Mowbray, 1847-1900
    Stone, Marcus, 1840-1921
    Stott, Edward, 1859-1918
    Stott, William, of Oldham, 1857-1900
    Thomas Agnew & Sons
    Watts, George Frederick, 1817-1904
    White, Gleeson, 1851-1898