Anthony Thieme

Artist Biography

A Dutch-born, American impressionist artist of Massachusetts’ Gloucester-Rockport Art Colony

By Alexandra A. Jopp

Anthony Thieme is best remembered for his scenes of Rockport, Mass.

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resource

I. Biography

Anthony Thieme was one of America’s most successful painters, with a long and prolific career that spanned the first half of the twentieth century. His story is a splendid illustration of the United States as the “land of opportunity.” While growing up in The Netherlands, he showed artistic leanings and a love of color. His passion, however, was not supported by his parents. They did not think art was a serious career choice, and they sent their son off to naval school. That did not last long, though, and as soon as he turned 14, Thieme enrolled in Holland’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Afterward, he studied for two years at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Yet even after this training, Thieme still could not convince his parents to support his desire to become an artist. So, at the age of 17, he left home. After several years traveling around Europe, Thieme, barely able to make ends meet, crossed the Atlantic, a trip that would lead to him becoming one of the most distinguished painters in the history of American art.

Born Antonius Johannes Thieme in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1888, the artist is much more remembered in the United States than in his native country. His reputation as a leading landscape and marine painter and as a premier figure of the Rockport School has lasted to this day.

Thieme’s career began in Germany, where he was employed as a stage designer while he developed his painting skills. After three years, he traveled to Switzerland, then Italy, where he worked as a stage designer in Turin. In 1909, he enrolled in the Scuola di Belle Arti, where he studied for a year before moving on to Naples. He spent two years sketching and painting in Naples, then traveled to London before taking the proceeds from the sale of some of his sketches and booking passage to New York.

Thieme settled in New York City in 1917 and began painting Broadway backdrops. Though the pay was good, the work was unfulfilling for the young and ambitious artist. He soon moved to Boston, where he kept a studio in Copley Square in which he produced easel paintings and illustrations.

In 1929, Thieme married Lillian Beckett and bought a cottage in Rockport, Mass. He set up a studio in the area, which had become a summer resort destination for nationally-known artists. According to a 1961 account by John Kieran, “There are studios on almost every street, and every day in summer you see outdoor groups of pupils working under different masters at picturesque points along the roadside.” 1 Thieme opened the Thieme Summer School of Art in Rockport in 1929 and served as its director until 1943.

Thieme’s favorite subjects were the historic fishing ports on the north shore of Massachusetts. His admiration for the gleaming colors and the lyric quality of the marine subjects dominated his style. “The open air is my studio,” Thieme said. “A good landscape painter must paint fast to catch the light of any hour. Unless you know what to put in, what to leave out, the result is a mess.”

Thieme is one of only a handful of American marine and landscape painters working in the first half of the twentieth century whose art occupies the walls of museums and private collections. He was honored with numerous awards during his career, including: the Delano Prize from the New York Watercolor Club, the Athenaeum Prize from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts in 1930; the Lucien Powell Citizen Jury Prize from the Los Angeles Museum in 1931, the Gold Medal for the Best Painting in New England from the Contemporary Artists Association in 1944 and a prestigious award for the best marine painting at the Pan-American Art Show in Miami in 1949. He exhibited around the world, at the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and venues in Belgium, Holland and France. Today, Thieme’s art is included in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the City of New Haven (Conn.) Collection, the Montclair Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thieme died in 1954 in Greenwich, Conn.

II. Chronology

1888 Born on Feb. 20 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
1902-04 Studied at Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam
1905 Studied at Royal Academy in The Hague
1906-08 Worked as apprentice artist in Düsseldorf, Germany
1909-10 Studied in Turin, Italy, at School of Fine Art
1917 Traveled to United States
1919 Settled in Boston, where he worked as designer and painter of stage settings for Copley Theatre
1929 Married Lillian Becket and moved to Rockport, Mass.
1929-1943 Managed Thieme School of Art in Rockport, Mass..
1954 Died on December 6 in Greenwich, Conn.

III. Collections

Albany Institute of History & Art, NY
Beach College, Storrs, Connecticut
Boston Museum of Fine Art
Buck Hill Falls, PA
City of New Haven Collection
Dayton Art Institute
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Montclair Art Museum
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
New Britain Museum of Art, CT
Pittsfield Museum of Art, MA
Springville, Utah; University of Iowa

IV. Exhibitions

1930-1934 National Academy of Design
1930 Art Institute of Chicago
1929-1931 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1932 Corcoran Gallery of Art
1930, 1931 Los Angeles Museum of Art (prize)
1932 Albright Art Gallery
1931 Detroit Institute of Art
1929, 1931 Salmagundi Club (prizes)
1928, 1931 Springfield, Utah (prizes)
1928 Gloucester Art Association (prize)
1927, 1928 Springfield Art League (prizes)
1930 North Shore Art Association (prize)
1930 Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts (prize)
1930 New York Water Color Club (prize)
1930 Boston Tercentenary Exhibition
Ogunquit Art Center
1931 Hatfield Gallery, LA
1931 New Haven Painters and Clay Club (prize)
1931 Washington Water Color Club (prize)
1932 Albright Art Gallery (prize)
1932 Pasadena Society of Artists
1932 San Francisco Art Annual
1938 Los Angeles Museum of Art
1938 Buck Hill Falls Art Association (Pennsylvania) 1938 (prize)
1944 Jordon Marsh Exhibition (Boston) (medal)

V. Memberships

American Artists Professional League
American Water Color Society
Art Alliance of America
Boston Art Club
Boston Society of Artists
California Academy of Fine Arts
Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts
Gloucester Society of Artists
National Arts Club
New York Water Color Club
North Shore Art Association
Philadelphia Art Alliance
Providence Water Color Club
Rockport Art Association
Salmagundi Club
Springfield Art League

VI. Notes

1: Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 38.

VII. Suggested Resources

Curtis, Judith. Anthony Thieme: 1888-1954. Rockport: Rockport Art Association, 1999.
Cooly, John L. Rockport Sketch Book: Stories of Early art and Artists. Rockport, MA: Rockport Art Association, 1965.
Falk, Exhibition Record Series

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