Phyllis Symondson (1901-1940) was a Jazz Age dancer, a 'Flapper'. She sailed with a troupe of eight other girls all between 17 and 24 years old on the Mauretania bound for New York in December 1925, second class, and is pictured here as if on board sketching on a traveller's painting box. On her return to London, Phyllis married the actor/producer and film director Harold French in in 1927. She was killed in the Blitz.
Thomson, who attended The Royal School for the Deaf and Dumb Children, was described in The Sphere in 1925 as the '... the best-known figure in London art circles at the moment. Mr Thomson has a strange and almost uncanny personality, though he looks like a robust and overgrown schoolboy. His curly head and enormous height are familiar, and he rather surprises one in that he dances so well.' Thomson worked for the War Artists' Advisory Committee during World War Two and in September 1942 became a full-time salaried artist attached to the Air Ministry, taking over the post from left vacant by Eric Kennington's resignation. As war artist, he was once was shot at by a sentry whose challenge he did not, of course, hear, and was wounded. After that he always had someone to accompany him on his official business.
In London in 1948 Thomson became the last winner of the Olympic Gold Medal for Painting (competitions for sporting subjects in architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture were part of Baron de Coubertin's original vision for the Olympics, but were discontinued after 1948).