E. Gertrude Thomson

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Emily Gertrude Thomson (1850–1929) was a British artist and illustrator.

E. G. Thomson - Momus 1880 Manchester Central Library

She was the daughter of Alexander Thomson (1815–1895), a professor of Greek and Hebrew. She studied at Manchester School of Art and became a member of the Royal Miniature Society. In 1878 she was approached by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) to illustrate some of his books, including Three Sunsets and Other Poems: she also designed the cover for The Nursery "Alice", and became a friend of Dodgson and wrote a short biographical memoir of him. After studying at the Manchester School of Art she attended the studio of Frederic Shields and they became lifelong friends. Emily also studied for some time at Messrs. Wedgwood’s works at Etruria in Staffordshire painting on china.

She exhibited in Manchester, Liverpool, Brussels and Canada. Manchester Art Gallery and the V&A own her works.

At various points of her career she painted portraits, illustrated books and designed stained glass.

Stained glass[edit]

Britomart Sample MVAS.jpeg

Emily’s stained glass windows can be seen at St. John the Divine, Brooklands, Cheshire, and Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Cheltenham.

The Britomart Windows at Cheltenham Ladies’ College are based upon six pictures taken from Edmund Spenser’s allegory of the “Faery Queene.” They were produced by Heaton, Butler and Bayne. Emily designed four of the windows including the Lady Knight shown here and Frederic Shields designed two – the first and the fifth.

Illustrations[edit]

Emily's Fairies WA MVAS.jpeg

Emily became an illustrator with numerous different commissions - one being: The Fairies – A Child’s Song, written by William Allingham who was part of the Rossetti Circle.

The Fairies was one of Dodgson’s favourite books. When he saw Emily’s work he contacted her and asked her to do some illustrations for him, but she took so long on the cover for The Nursery "Alice" that in the end the book went to press initially without it. In between Emily's front and back covers, it contained twenty illustrations by John Tenniel which were colorized by Miss Thomson.

Emily and Dodgson not only became working colleagues, but the closest of friends right up to Dodgson’s death.

Portraits[edit]

Emily produced many fine portraits and was a member of the Royal Miniature Society.

Lewis Carroll MVAS.jpeg
Kropotkin MVAS.jpeg

Opposite is a miniature of Charles Dodgson.

Emily drew a number of Russian refugees for illustrations in Charles Rowley’s book “Fifty Years of Work Without Wages.”

Prince Kropotkin was one of these.

She was a good friend of Charles Rowley and took this photograph of him with Frederic Shields in his garden.

Rowley Shields MVAS.jpeg

References[edit]

  • Cohen, Morton N and Wakeling, Edward (2003), Lewis Carroll and his illustrators, Macmillan, London, pp. 229–231
  • Thomson, Susan W (2007), Manchester's Victorian Art Scene And Its Unrecognised Artists, Manchester Art Press, Warrington. ISBN 978-0-9554619-0-3