His painting Flowers is a rare still-life by A. R. Thomson, who normally painted portraits, and it was done in less than one hour as a Christmas present for his friend and biographer, Arthur Dimmock. It was acquired by the Deaf Museum & Archive in a private sale in September 2014 from Cassandra Turk, the daughter of the first BDHS President, A. F. Dimmock (1918-2007). Arthur was the biographer of the book Tommy on the life of Alfred Thomson.
Who was he?
Born in Bangalore, India, to Major George Thomson, an officer in the British Indian Army, Alfred Thomson was discovered to be deaf during infancy. When aged seven he was sent to be educated at the Royal Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb Poor at Margate as a fee-paying pupil. He was not academically successful but was found to be able to sketch well. He became an artist in spite of opposition from his father and his teachers at Margate. Although Thomson attended the London New Art School in Kensington for a time, he was largely self-taught as an artist and his first paid work was designing posters for a whisky company. He also created a series of posters for Daimler Cars.
His early years as an artist were a real struggle and he was often in dire poverty. In the 1930s he created a series of murals for the Duncannon Hotel in London
His painting of the Pilgrim Fathers Embarking at Plymouth, commissioned by Essex County Council in 1936, was the turning point in his life. He had submitted his painting to the council and after stringent judging his work was declared a winner. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1937. Not long after he was elected a Royal Academician, work became plentiful. During World War II he completed a number of commissions for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee and in September 1942 became a full-time salaried artist attached to the Air Ministry until an accidental shooting wounded him. In the 1948 Olympic Games in London Thomson became the last person to win a Gold Medal for his painting of a seated boxer as medals for art were abandoned in subsequent Olympic Games.
In 1958 the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited his studio for the Commemoration Dinner of the RAF picture and later he painted the interiors of the House of Commons and the House of Lords for Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister.
He was married twice and he had two children from his second wife.
He died in October 1979.