(1833–94). Sculptor. Known chiefly for portraits, he also produced ideal works. Although his art was rooted in the nineteenth-century taste for neoclassicism, his notable portrait sculpture displays a dignified naturalism. Born in Abbeyleix, Queens County, Ireland, in 1847 Thompson arrived in Albany, New York. There within a year or two he began working in Erastus Dow Palmer's studio. In the late autumn of 1858 he moved to New York, where he pursued additional instruction at the National Academy of Design. At first he specialized in cameos and reliefs but soon moved on to more ambitious portraits and figural sculptures. Thompson first returned to Europe only after establishing his proficiency as a sculptor. Praise for two works in the 1867 international exposition in Paris drew him abroad. While living mostly in Rome before returning in 1869, his style moved toward greater realism. Thompson remained busy with portrait commissions until again sailing for Europe in 1875. Among his likenesses of this period, Charles Loring *Elliott (Metropolitan Museum, 1870), in marble, and Sanford *Gifford (Metropolitan Museum, 1871), in bronze, exemplify his characteristically vigorous modeling, refined surfaces, and vivid individuality. The second sojourn abroad proved his undoing. After visiting England and Paris, he lived in Italy, mostly in Florence, but mental instability and alcoholism derailed his career. He accomplished little after his return to New York in 1881. In 1890 he was permanently committed to a mental institution in Middletown, New York, where he died.
From The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists in Oxford Reference.