Jerome Thompson's genre paintings on rustic themes, which were immensely popular in the late nineteenth century, have received new attention recently. This revived interest focuses on the unusual distinction of Thompson's landscape settings, which often dominate the pictures' simple foreground scenes of rural work, play or dalliance. Thompson's natural elements-meadows, mountains, sky-have great luminosity and tonal subtlety. They show a high level of technical sophistication.
He was born in 1814 to the Middleboro, Massachusetts portraitist, Cephas Thompson, who instructed only Jerome's older brother in art. His father wanted Jerome to farm, and destroyed Jerome's art work. In his teens, Thompson moved with his sister to Barnstable, Massachusetts, where he painted signs, ornaments and portraits. Daniel Webster is said to have been one of Thompson's subjects, and in 1834 he painted the aging Abraham Quary, last of the Nantucket Indian tribe. In 1835, Thompson opened a New York City portrait studio.
His departure from portraiture came in 1850, when he exhibited a A Pic Nick, Camden, Maine (date unknown, Museum of Fine Art, Boston) at the National Academy of Design, earning membership and creating a demand for his work.
In 1852, Thompson went to England for several years of independent study. He continued to paint the integrated genre-landscapes that made him famous, but by 1865 he ceased exhibiting the originals. Lithographic reproductions ensured his continuing prosperity. Works like The Haymakers (1859, private collection) and Apple Gathering (1856, Brooklyn Museum) earn modern praise as outstanding nineteenth-century landscapes.
On his return from England, Thompson lived at Mineola, Long Island, and Glen Gardner, New Jersey. He sketched in the Massachusetts Berkshires and in Vermont. He also painted some romantic Western subjects, including "Hiawatha's Homeward Journey with Minnehaha" (date and location unknown) and "Indian Prayer" (1884, location unknown).
Thompson died in 1886.
National Academy of Design
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Metropolitan Museum, New York City