Sir Henry Thompson was a surgeon, astronomer, artist and collector.
It was the artist D. G. Rossetti who first enthused Thompson for oriental art. Rossetti, like Whistler, had acquired an early taste for Japanese paraphernalia. Thompson was introduced to the dealer Murray Marx, who along with George Durlacher, had a shop on 395 Oxford Street, which from 1875 onwards played a central role in the developing oriental mania. Marx helped Thompson to build up his collection and then later to catalogue it. At Marks suggestion in 1876 Whistler was asked to illustrate a catalogue while Marks wrote the text for an exhibition of Thompson's blue and white Nankin porcelain to be held at Mark's gallery. Whistler drew thirty-eight pieces of porcelain and Thompson drew thirteen. Whistler made atleast one study for each. The private view opened on 30 April 1878. Only 220 limited edition copies of the exhibition catalogue were published, bound in cloth with a pattern of hawthorn flowers and thorns embossed in greenish-grey on a gold background (see Studies of blue and white porcelain (M.592) - Oviform Vase and cover (M.651)).
Thompson, Sir Henry, A Catalogue of Blue and White Nankin Porcelain Forming the Collection of Sir Henry Thompson. Illustrated ... from Drawings by James Whistler ... and Sir Henry Thompson, London, 1878; Maas, Jeremy, The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.