Colin Edwin Sutherland Thoms was born in Edinburgh in 1912 and died in Glasgow on 20 April 1997. He attended Edinburgh College of Art from 1929 to 1933, where he studied life painting under the Scottish Colourist Samuel John Peploe: his other notable tutors included John Duncan, D.M Sutherland and W.G Gillies. He went on to study for one term at the Slade School in London in 1934. The following year, he was awarded a travelling scholarship from Edinburgh School of Art, which enabled him to study in Paris, Florence, Rome, Padua and Venice. During World War Two, Thoms served with the Royal Artillery, transferring to the Education Corps after receiving a head wound: he served with the Corps in Edinburgh, Orkney, Egypt and Palestine. The period he spent in the Middle East would become a major influence on his work.
Thoms taught at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen from 1951 to 1976, during which time he influenced many artists, including Ian McKenzie Smith and Alexander Fraser. He first exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1928, and continued to exhibit there throughout his career. In 1949, he was elected President of the Society of Scottish Artists. His first solo exhibition was held in 1966 at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh. His subsequent exhibitions include Aberdeen University, the Pier Art Gallery in Orkney, the Drian Gallery, London and England & Co, London. Thoms’s work is held in various public collections including the Scottish Arts Council, the Edinburgh Civic Arts Centre and the Gdansk National Museum in Poland. His work is also held in many private collections such as the Robert Fleming Collection of Scottish Art.
Thoms’s work is noted for its use of brilliant colour, personal symbolism and freedom of form, reflecting the influence from the Scottish Colourists. However, he began to explore painting in an abstract style after visiting a Joan Miró retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1963: his later work is reminiscent of artists such as Miró and Paul Klee, who was also influential to Thoms’s work.