24th October 2017

Jim Thompson - Thai Silk Baron

Denise Heywood

Jim Thompson arrived in Bangkok as a US army officer in 1945, fell in love with it and stayed. Captivated by the lustrous beauty of Thai silk, he resuscitated an ancient craft in decline and made it famous, creating costumes for films and embellishing his historic house, which today is a museum.

An aesthete and art collector, he created an exquisite home from six hand-carved teakwood houses filled with antiques. Here he became a celebrated society host entertaining the rich and famous.

This lecture describes his achievements, showing silk production and its artistic heritage, including royal robes and dance costumes. It highlights films with his silks such as The King and I, reveals his house and its art, and reflects on a life that ended abruptly with his mysterious disappearance at the height of his success.

Denise is a lecturer, writer, art historian and photographer. She worked in Cambodia as a journalist in the 1990s and has been a scholar of Southeast Asian art ever since, travelling back every year.

Her books include one on the Buddhist temples of Laos, Ancient Luang Prabang and Laos, and Cambodian Dance Celebration of the Gods, with a foreword by the daughter of King Sihanouk.

She has written for many art, literary and travel publications, from The Sunday Times to Times Literary Supplement, Art Quarterly, Orientations and many others and has appeared on television and radio.

The Society meets at the Hull Royal Hotel, 170 Ferensway, Hull HU1 3UF

All lectures are presented in the Royal Suite and start at 7.30pm prompt.


Doors are normally open at 6.45pm but access may be delayed if lecture preparations are not complete.


The audience are requested to please be in their seats before 7.25pm

The Hull Literary & Philosophical Society is registered as a Charity No 507226