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Hugh Thomson RI (1860-1920)


Hugh Thomson, RI (1860-1920)

‘pen drawings by Hugh Thomson can be said with reasonable justification to mark the beginning of a new era in English book illustration’ (Edward Hodnett,
Five Centuries of English Book Illustration, Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1988, page 187)

The Irish-born artist, Hugh Thomson, helped introduce a new approach to illustration through his closely observed and carefully researched pen and ink drawings. He was particularly associated with editions of classics of and about the Georgian and Regency periods. However, his versatility enabled him to capture both contemporary life and native topography with a relaxed energy.

Hugh Thomson was born at 9 Church Street (now Kingsgate Street), Coleraine, County Londonderry, on 1 June 1860. He was the eldest of the three children of John Thomson, a tea merchant, and Catherine (née Andrews), a shopkeeper.

Two or three years after the death of Hugh’s mother in about 1871, his father married Maria Lennox, a widow with one son, of the Manor House, Kilrea, about 14 miles south of Coleraine. John Thomson settled in Kilrea, and opened a drapery, haberdashery and hosiery warehouse in Maghera Street, though left the running of it to his wife as he pursued other business interests.

Hugh attended Coleraine Model School and, while there, often stayed at Breezemount, with his maternal aunt, Jayne Hunter, becoming very close to his cousins.

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