Ellen M. Murray Thomson

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These beautiful works by Scottish artist Ellen May Murray Thomson (1889-1984) are executed under her maiden name Ellen May Frew and predominately date from before her marriage to artist John Murray Thomson RSA in 1917. Whilst usually defined by her relationship to her better-known husband, Ellen Murray Thomson was in her own right an accomplished painter of animal subjects and floral Art Nouveau designs.

Ellen was daughter of John Rose Frew, a master watchmaker and Provost of Dingwall (1906–1911), and a portrait she did of her father is in the collection of Dingwall Museum. It appears that before Ellen married she was a commercial artist and illustrator, producing designs inspired by architectural ornament, and creating decorative works in the Art Nouveau style – including commissions for ceramics. Thomson lived in Edinburgh (John teaching at the Edinburgh College of Art) and her floral designs were produced in the decade just following that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s influential work in Glasgow.

Ellen Murray Thomson also collaborated on children’s book projects with her husband, and this collection includes later animal paintings by Ellen produced for book illustrations (as well as some original story manuscripts). These illustrations continue an animal theme, and are charming examples of a British children’s storytelling tradition that combines interest in natural science with evocation of a simpler world pre-industrialisation.