Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Thompson, G. David
Newark, Ohio, 1899–Pittsburgh, 1965

George David Thompson was an American investment banker, industrialist, and renowned collector of modern art based in Pittsburgh. Over the course of his lifetime, he amassed a large collection of modern art, American folk art, and Islamic art. 

After obtaining an engineering degree from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1920, Thompson turned to finance and in 1933 cofounded Thompson and Taylor, a firm that took control of a number of steel manufacturing companies during the Great Depression, among them the Pittsburgh Spring Steel Company and the Pittsburgh Steel Foundry Company. He lived in Stone’s Throw, an estate in Whitehall just outside of Pittsburgh that housed his vast art collection. 

Thompson developed an interest in and appreciation for art as a boy growing up in Indiana. He began acquiring art in 1928 with the purchase of a work by Paul Klee, the artist whose work would become a focal point of Thompson’s collecting. Thompson amassed extensive holdings of work by Alberto Burri, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, and Kurt Schwitters, as well as many lesser-known artists. His collection also included Cubist works by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso. He owned numerous examples from each artist’s oeuvre; for example, his collection of Giacometti’s sculpture numbered 69 works. 

Thompson had been negotiating with the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust to create an art center in Pittsburgh for his collection. When those plans fell through in 1960, he began de-accessioning his vast holdings. Eighty-eight works by Klee were sold to the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf) in 1960, and a significant portion of Thompson’s collection, approximately 350 objects, were sold to the Swiss dealer Ernst Beyeler (Galerie Beyeler). During that time, a selection of the collection was shown at the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Kunstmuseum in Düsseldorf; Kunsthaus Zürich; and the Municipal Museum, The Hague. Braque’s Woman with a Mandolin (1910) was among the works exhibited. In 1966, a year after Thompson’s death, a group of 112 lots was sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York, and the final group of approximately 100 works was purchased by the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). Throughout his life, Thompson made small donations to a variety of institutions, among them the Carnegie Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Fogg Museum, Harvard University; and his high school in Peru, Indiana.

Contributed by Anna Jozefacka, January 2015
For more information, see:

One Hundred Paintings from the G. David Thompson Collection. Exh. cat. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1961.

Artwork from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection formerly owned by Thompson:
Composition with Violin
Composition with Violin Pablo Picasso
Paris, 1912