Leslie Prince Thompson (1880 - 1963)
Portrait Study, c. 1925
Oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 25 1/4 inches
Signed at lower left: Leslie P. Thompson
Period Thulin frame
One of Boston’s most celebrated portrait painters, Leslie Prince Thompson was also an influential instructor at the city’s Museum School, where he taught for 17 years. Throughout his long career he remained apparently unaffected by the currents of modernism that circulated around him, and advocated a seemingly simple approach to painting:
Painting is seeing in the right way and putting on canvas what you see, no more, no less. And I mean really see, too. Most people don’t see at all….The layman is determined to find a symbol there; he isn’t willing to sit and look… [M.J. Curl, “Boston Artists and Sculptors Talk of Their Work and Ideals: Leslie P. Thompson,” Boston, January 9, 1927].
The present work, a depiction of a young woman in contemporary street dress, exhibits the tonal harmonies that helped propel Prince into the top echelon of Boston portraitists. The subject’s pose, her direct gaze, her fashionable hat, and the subtle use of red appear with frequency in the artist’s most acclaimed works. Whatever they may have lacked in novelty, Prince’s well-crafted portraits never suffered for lack of critical appreciation.
Mr. Thompson’s 20 pictures in this tradition make a distinguished, well-bred roomful. No monkey shines, mind you, but the kind of pictures to live with over the years. The kind of painting to enjoy for its hearty brushing of juicy pigment, for its summary indication of fabric and textures in hair, flesh and jewels, the feeling of confidence the observer has in the artist at the handle end of the brush and in his ability to draw and to model directly in color the solid volumes of the living thing. [Irma Whitney, “Leslie Thompson Portraits at Guild Reflect the Best Bostonese Tradition,” Boston Herald, April 2, 1939]
Unlike the ups and downs most artists experience at one point or another during their lifetimes, Thompson’s steadfast dedication to his chosen craft rewarded him with critical acclaim that endured throughout his long career:
There is no painter in Boston today better equipped to stand this test [of having his works assembled and compared to those of other worthy artists] than Mr. Thompson, whose talent is of a very high and personal order. His collection of twenty-one pictures must rank among the very best yet seen at the Guild. Especially do the eight figure pieces entitle him to a distinguished place among American painters of this genre. They are sterling performances, not sensational, not eccentric, and not ultra-modern, but having absolutely sound and permanent qualities of good art, which make them beautiful, interesting and memorable. [“Mr. Thompson’s Pictures,” Boston Transcript, January 26, 1915].