50. Sydney Lough Thompson
A Breezy Day, Concarneau, Brittany
Oil on canvas
50 x 61 cm
est. $20,000 - 30,000
Fetched $15,000
Relative Size: A Breezy Day, Concarneau, Brittany
Relative size

An Estate Collection, Auckland

After making a grand tour of Italy with a group of American students, Thompson made his way to Brittany. He intended to stay there for the summer, before returning to Paris. Concarneau became his base for the remainder of his stay. Over the years the region attracted artists from around the world. Frances Hodgkins, Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet, to name a few. Rapid changes in city life resulting from modernisation, commercial and industrial expansion led to the creation in the last decades of the 19th century of a rural ideal, a life lived close to nature. To the artist, ports were not inanimate, but living places which appeared to absorb and express the personalities of the sailors and fishermen who made and used them. In his work, Thompson evolved a technique which made a direct statement. He worked to identify colour with tone so that each supported the other. The subject of fishermen and their wives on the digue was a common sight at Concarneau. They gathered daily to unload the catch from the Tunny Boats at the quay. Thompson sought personal expression and symbolic meaning creating an overall atmosphere of drama. Paint was loaded on to the canvas in a variety of directional strokes. The dark shapes of men and women on the wharf are set against the sails and green fields of Brittany, reminiscent of his former tutor Petrus van der Velden. Thompson was one of the first New Zealand born painters to develop a professional career, but unlike Frances Hodgkins and Raymond McIntyre, the advanced artists of his generation, he did not cut his ties with New Zealand or attempt to define himself within the context of modern British art. Thompson shared the attitudes and aspirations of many New Zealanders of his time and background, and became one of the country's most popular painters. A retrospective exhibition in Christchurch in 1990 confirmed the continuing nostalgic appeal of his practice. In France, regional recognition came in 1992 with a retrospective at the Musée de Pont-Aven, near Concarneau. Thompson, who died in 1973, is buried at the cemetery at Concarneau.