Phra Bot, sacred cloth.
Fragment of a painted cotton banner, beginning of the Bangkok School, 18th - 19th centuries.
 

Upon his arrival in Bangkok, the traditional Thai paintings were among the first works of art to catch his attention. This art form, largely unknown in the West, was in danger of being extinct in Thailand itself.

Paintings in the Thompson collection are on cloth, paper and wood. Most are on cotton and range from fairly small to tapestry size.

Phra Bot, sacred cloth. Fragment of a painted cotton, Ayutthaya School, 17th century.

The subject matter generally related to either the life of Buddha or the popular legend of Prince Vessantara, who attained enlightenment after having given up his worldly possessions, his wife and children.

 
 
     
Scenes from Vessantara Jataka

To inspire those who visited the temple, the paintings, which decorate the temple walls, were designed to provide religious instruction. A majority were undertaken by anonymous monks and artists. Often such work of art would be commissioned by devout Buddhists hoping to earn merit by presenting a gift to the temple.

 

Fragment of a manuscript, painted paper, Bangkok School,
first half of the 19th century.

 
     
 
The Picture Gallery
 
     
 

 

 

 
Scenes of everyday Thai Life

The Picture Gallery, a single old Thai house, was built by Thompson to house an unusual collection of Thai paintings he had discovered in Connecticut, where they had been for almost a hundred years.

Painting on wood,
Bangkok School, 20th century.



Dr. J.H. Chandler, an American missionary and an American consul to Thailand commissioned this collection of 27 paintings in the early 1860s while serving in Bangkok. The paintings depict everyday scenes of the traditional Thai way of life such as threshing rice, activities in the village market place, children playing, gathering coconuts, and even childbirth. The titles are in Dr. Chandler's handwriting.

 

 
 
Jim Thompson played a key role in granting many Westerners their first exposure to this little known art form. He sent a group of his best paintings on a tour of American museums, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He also donated a number of museums in the United States having Southeast Asia collections.
Painting on wood,
Bangkok School, 19th century.
 
 
     
 
The Burmese Collection
 
     
 

Some of his most decorative treasures were Burmese, acquired when in Burma in the 1950s at the joint invitation of the Burmese government and the United Nations to give advice on starting a silk industry there.