Elizabeth Mary Thompson

(1896 - 1981) - A cool dwarf, hunchback artist: A model 'integrationist'

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Elizabeth Mary Thompson


Born in Braunton, Devon, Elizabeth Mary Thompson suffered from dwarfism,  with severe curvature of the spine.

She attended a Quaker boarding school in Darlington and then studied at St Albans School of Art (1913-14) and in St Ives under Alfred HARTLEY. She also trained under the noted Belgian Artist Emile FABRY who was in England during WWI, and he recommended that she attend the Academy in Brussels. Between 1919-1922 she studied drawing and sculpture, but finding it physically impossible to pursue her love of sculpture, she chose drawing as her medium (using carbon, rather than lead pencils).

She returned to live in North Wales, moving eventually to Bethesda in 1937. Her initial drawings of Welsh mountain scenes were praised for their perfect draughtmanship. In 1939 the Army took over the mountain slopes for firing practice, so, excluded from the remote mountain slopes, she began drawing in the Penrhyn slate quarry. She learnt Welsh fluently, and spent days alongside the quarrymen at work, checking her depictions with them for accuracy. Quarrying becoming her principal focus and she completed a series of drawings covering the whole of the slate industry.

In 1954 she moved to join her family in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Her decreasing mobility caused her to abandon drawing after 1969. In 1981 a booklet was produced to accompany a Welsh Arts Council touring show, An Artist in the Quarries.

Story contributed by Lindsey Colbourne

See her pictures here