Former Governor's art collection up for auction

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Former Gov. Jim Thompson auctioned 19 works from his art collection at the John Toomey Gallery's 20th Century Art and Design Auction on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Few are probably aware of Thompson's Oak Park connections. When he was a child he and his family moved to Oak Park after his father got out of the army.

"I used to deliver the Oak Leaves when I was a boy. The Austinite, The Garfield Park Shopping News. So, I'm sort of a door-to-door guy. Which later turned out to be campaigning," Thompson said with a chuckle.

His mother remained in Oak Park after his father died and his wife is from Oak Park. "She's a Dooper," Thompson said.

Thompson no longer lives in Oak Park, but chose the John Toomey Gallery, 818 North Blvd., to auction pieces from his collection.

The auction is a solution to a lack of space in his downtown law office, Winston & Strawn, for all his art.

Two rooms in the office each had a predominant theme. One is mostly Chicago themed with works created by Chicago artists, the other largely Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt themed. The Chicago themes are up for auction after downsizing to create room for another of the law office's partners.

The self-titled collector said he has lived with most of the items set for auction for over 20 years. Now it is time for his paintings and bronzes to "go to another good home," he said Wednesday on his visit to the gallery.

"I've been starting new collections, upgrading old collections, disposing of old collections for years," said Thompson. "It's what every antique collector says. It's the hunt that's the fun part."

The art the Toomey Gallery received is all consigned said Joe Stanfield, head of the gallery's fine art department and the appraiser of the Thompson Collection. Thompson said money he receives for his collection will go toward purchasing more pieces.

One of which is "The Archer," a bronze by Sir William Thornycroft.

The Toomey Gallery has four auctions a year in which it showcases 1,000 items. For Thompson's nearly 20 items in Saturday's auction, Stanfield said his appraisal was based on previous auction history, who the artist is, what the subject is and what the size is.

Stanfield priced, for example, "A Chicago Winter Evening" by Albert Henry, a small pastel at $3,000 to $5,000. A little higher he admits than most appraisers would.

"I think I was a little more aggressive [with the price] based on the subject and based on who it's from," said Stanfield. "There has been a lot of interest basically because it's from [Gov. Thompson]."

The auction ends at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

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