Marion's Bio

 1926-2007



There is only one original.  It is painted brushstroke after brushstroke by the creator of the painting.

Originals date back to the 1960's.

Official United States Coast Guard Artist: Juried by the Salmagundi Club in NYC.

Two Paintings, both juried in 1996 & 1999 and were Exhibited onboard the USS Intrepid in Manhattan, N. Y.

 

1970: 7th & 8th Grand Prix International de Peinture la Cote d Azure: Cannes, France
1971: 12th Grand Prix International de Peinture de: Deauville, France (Grand Finalist)

Marion Sue's steamboat paintings have docked in Switzerland, Tokyo, France, Germany, Washington D. C., Memphis, New Orleans, California, Atlanta, NYC, and all along Ole Man River.

Marion Sue Thompson was born in Paragould, Arkansas on June 28, 1926. Her interest in art goes back to when as a little girl she would draw pictures on her grandmother’s dining room walls much to her distress. She gained an early interest in rivers and riverboats from the time her father would take her fishing as a young child on the Black and Little Black Rivers. 

After her marriage to William Bradford in 1950 she moved to Harrisburg, Arkansas. The reason for revealing the Bradford name is two different eras in her work with many paintings signed by Marion Sue Bradford and others Marion Sue Thompson starting in 1984.  Marion Sue and William divorced in 1982. She married Merle Thompson in early 1984.

In 1965 she had a chance to study in a small art class in Harrisburg. Marion then took a correspondence course from the University of Oklahoma. Later she studied under artists Edgar Whitney, Tony Couch, Milford Zornes, and George Post. “I wanted to paint well” she said, “so the work and study was not hard. It represented a means to do what I wanted to do and do it well.”

Marion Sue started her art career in 1964 and her last painting was of her High School in Paragould in November 2003 commissioned by a local businessman.

In 1969 a pen and ink drawing was displayed in Little Rock, which resulted in an invitation to show her work in  France. International recognition followed, as did her interest in steamboats. The artist did group exhibits at the Grand Prix International in Cannes and Deauville, France where she was a Grand Finalist.

A retired riverboat captain and steamboat historian, W. H. Tippitt of Hernando, Mississippi discovered Marion Sue’s Towboat paintings at a show in Memphis and contacted her about painting steamboats. He was trying to compile a comprehensive history of the steamboat era so that it would be here for future generations to read and see. Capt. Tippitt supplied Marion Sue with old photographs and related material. Capt. Tippitt was also her technical advisor. She said he also wanted the steamboats recorded on microfilm so that people would always know how truly grand they were. In order to make this truly come to life Marion had to do extensive research utilizing every source she could uncover.

“Many of my commissions were dyed in the wool Steamboat buffs. They have to be true to life as she says. These people can spot an error in a second and they can be pretty severe critics when it comes to having incorrect detail in one of the paintings.”

In 1972, Marion Sue was honored during the “Great Steamboat Race between the Delta Queen and the then-Little Rock based Border Star.” She exhibited 20 of her paintings on the trip the Delta Queen took up the Arkansas River to Little Rock. Marion’s paintings were shown in the After--Cabin Lounge. She was told that it was rare that such an exhibition be put aboard the Delta Queen. Marion made the trip up the Arkansas River to the state’s capitol city aboard the Delta Queen. This was also her first trip on the Delta Queen and she got off after the race was completed. Her paintings went on to New Orleans. She received a commission from the owner, Capt. Jack Trotter of the Border Star, to do a painting of the race which was run along the Little Rock Riverfront. While on the Delta Queen she played the calliope and was given a signed certified certificate by Capt. Wagner to play the Calliope along the nation’s waterways.

Hungry FishermanIn 1973 the artist was commissioned by the “Hungry Fisherman” 361 in Horn Lake, Ms to do a number of riverboat paintings. That restaurant opened in November 1973 and the Bradford paintings were well received. Then Marion Sue became seriously ill. The diagnosis, cancer, the prognosis, no hope for survival. Indomitably, Sue Bradford did not give up! She had major surgery---and the prognosis remained the same---no hope.

She was then commissioned to do paintings for two more Hungry Fisherman restaurants. She made a 130 mile round trip each day to Memphis, Tn. for cobalt and radiation treatments but continued to work on the paintings. She would work for ten minutes and have to rest an hour---but she kept working. She would ask Jesus to stroke her brush for her as her energy was taken away because of the daily drive and treatments. Eventually she started gaining weight and started feeling fine. Typically Marion Sue Bradford was a one woman organization. She had over 200 of her riverboat paintings on display at seven Hungry Fisherman restaurants in five states. A perfectionist, her works are history of riverboat transportation in America. She was asked to take more commissions than she could possibly hope to complete.

Her main interest was in conveying the history of steamboats that plied the Western rivers.  In addition to her work with steamboats Marion Sue became an accomplished landscape artist. This subject appealed to her because it depicts the continuity of life which is represented through the renewal of seasons. In the early 1970’s some of her paintings included the traditional oriental scene. Although mainly a watercolorist, Marion also worked in oils, acrylics, pen and ink, batik, wood engraving and etching. She was competent in each of these art forms and the versatile ability which gave her a wide dimension of expression.

The artist’s painting, “The Burning of the Sultana” is the cover art on the book titled, “The Sultana Tragedy” by author Jerry O. Potter.


The artist was affiliated with many organizations throughout her career. Some were: Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, Arkansas Arts Council, Federation of the Arts, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Arkansas Arts Registry, U.S. Navy Artist, and UALR, Little Rock, Arkansas. At the time of her death she was a member of the Mid-Southern Watercolorists, Northeast Arkansas Visual Art League, American Society of Marine Artists, United States Coast Guard Artists, and the Memphis-Germantown Art League. Marion Sue attended steamboat meetings all over the country.

Of all the steamboats she studied and painted, Marion Sue said, “If I were to pick one out of the past that I could ride on, it would be the J. M. White. It was the ultimate in steamboat grandeur.”

NOT FOR ONE MOMENT DID I--NOR WILL I--GIVE UP.

Marion Sue Thompson