The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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David Croal Thomson, 1855-1930

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1855.10.24
Place of Birth: Edinburgh
Date of Death: 1930.01.04
Place of Death:


David Croal Thomson was an art dealer and amateur artist. He married Alice Mary Halton in 1884. She died in 1928. The Thomsons had three sons and five daughters. In 1896 JW made a lithograph of Thomson's daughter, Little Evelyn (C.146), of whom he was fond.


From 1878 to 1896 Thomson was the director of the London branch of the French firm of art dealers Boussod, Valadon & Cie. The London branch, known as the Goupil Gallery, was located at 116-117 New Bond Street.

Thomson had a particular interest in Dutch art, the Barbizon school and the New English Art Club at a time when French and Dutch landscape painting was popular among Scottish collectors. He shared this interest with the dealer Alexander Reid, who worked for a time with Boussod, Valadon & Cie in Paris. Thomson also sought to promote the cause of Impressionism in Britain. However, a Monet exhibition he organised in 1889 was ill- attended. From 1892-1902, Thomson edited the Art Journal as well as contributing to the Studio, Magazine of Art, Scotsman and Encyclopaedia Britannica. He also published a number of works including The Barbizon School of Painters (1890), Corot (1892) and The Brothers Maris (1907). McLure Hamilton describes him as having 'won for himself a premier position among connoisseurs and writers on Art.'

Thomson was a great admirer of JW, whom he met in 1880. In 1891 JW entrusted him with the exhibition of Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) in London before it left for Glasgow. In the 1890s he became JW's principal dealer, buying and selling considerable numbers of JW's paintings, watercolours, pastels, etchings and lithographs. Thomson was loyal and their dealings good natured. He wrote, 'I became convinced that all Mr Whistler's quarrels originated because the person concerned did not correctly understand and appreciate his work'. Thomson, who had himself studied drawing and painting, painted a number of nocturnes in the late 1870s that 'were the source of some interesting and good-humoured chaff' from JW.

Thomson played an instrumental role in the sale of JW's Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101) to the Musée du Luxembourg in 1891. In March 1892 the Goupil Gallery held a very successful retrospective of JW's work Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces. JW called it 'my heroic kick in Bond Street'. The two men were in correspondence from 1881 until 1902.


Thomson, D. C., 'New Pictures by Mr Whistler', Art Journal, January 1897, pp. 10-11; Thomson, D. C., 'James Abbott McNeill Whistler: Some Personal Recollections', Art Journal, September 1903, pp. 265-68; Thomson, D. C., 'Whistler and his London Exhibitions', Art Journal, April 1905, pp. 107-11; Thomson, D. C., 'The Late George McCulloch', Art Journal, February 1908, pp. 43-44; Thomson, D. C., Barbizon House: An Illustrated Record, London, 1919 - also 1924, 1927 and 1928.

Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Hamilton, John McLure, Men I Have Painted, London, 1921; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Houfe, Simon, 'David Croal Thomson, Whistler's Aide-de-camp', Apollo, vol. 119, 1984, pp. 112-19; Who was who: a cumulated index, 1897-1990, London, 1991; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Whiteley, Linda, 'Boussod, Valadon et Cie', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 10 July 2002).