Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942

A Finding Aid to the Thomas Anshutz Papers, circa 1870-1942, in the Archives of American Art, by Megan McShea

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Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Thomas Pollock Anshutz was born in Newport, Kentucky in 1851. He grew up in Newport and in Wheeling, then in Virginia, now West Virginia. He received early art instruction at the National Academy of Design in New York in the early 1870s, studying under Lemuel Wilmarth.

In 1875, Anshutz moved to Philadelphia and attended the life class taught by Thomas Eakins at the Philadelphia Sketch Club. Eakins would soon come to be a major influence and close associate of Anshutz. In 1876, both artists joined the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA); Eakins as Chief Demonstrator of Anatomy, and Anshutz as a student of Eakins and Christian Schussele. Anshutz became Eakins' assistant in 1878, and then succeeded him as Chief Demonstrator when Eakins was appointed Professor of Drawing and Painting. While he was still a student, Anshutz completed his ambitious painting Ironworkers' Noontime (1880), which was first exhibited at the Philadelphia Sketch Club in 1881 and was compared to Eakins' work by critics. 1881 was also the year that Anshutz became an instructor of drawing and painting at PAFA.

Around 1880, Thomas Eakins bought his first camera. By 1882, when he was appointed Director of Schools, he was using photography as an aid in his own artwork and as a teaching tool in his life classes. Many at the Academy got involved with photography, the cutting-edge medium of the age, a time when new photographic processes, materials, and devices were being introduced at a rapid rate and being put to new uses across many disciplines. At PAFA, Anshutz, Eakins, and others used the medium to carry out Eakins' vision of studying nature from life, posing models and students for the camera and making prints available for study.

Photography at the Academy ranged from informal photographs and class portraits to posed studies of nude or classically-dressed figures. Eakins also carried out a systematic documentation of nudes in seven pre-defined standing poses, which he called "The Naked Series." Anshutz, John Laurie Wallace, and Covington Few Seiss are known to have made photographs for this project, and Eakins himself was among the models. Around this same time, outings were organized with groups including Eakins, Anshutz, Wallace, and others, in which they photographed each other outdoors in the nude, boxing, wrestling, swimming, and in repose. Eakins used photographs from these outings in his Arcadia paintings and reliefs and in his painting, The Swimming Hole. In 1884, Eakins and Anshutz also became involved with the work of Eadweard Muybridge, who had come to Philadelphia to develop his photographic motion studies of animals and people. Eakins and Anshutz helped to build Muybridge's elaborate apparatus and took photographs for his well-known series, Animal Locomotion.

In 1886, when Eakins was dismissed from his position at PAFA for misconduct, Anshutz took over his classes and his leadership role in art instruction at the Academy. With the exception of a brief stint in Europe, teaching dominated Anshutz's remaining years, and may have earned him a more lasting reputation than his own artwork. Anshutz taught an impressive roster of American artists, many of whom would be among the vanguard of modernism in American art, including Robert Henri, John Marin, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and George Luks.

In 1892, Anshutz married Effie Shriver Russell, and the two traveled to Paris, where Anshutz briefly enrolled in the Acad�mie Julian and visited museums, galleries, and the Salon des Ind�pendants. He returned to Philadelphia in 1893 and resumed teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy. During family vacations at Holly Beach, New Jersey, Anshutz experimented with watercolors, a brighter palette, and simplified compositions. He also continued taking photographic studies of scenes from nature and transcribing them onto canvas. He made dozens of photographs of Holly Beach scenes and other marine views from an 1897 boat trip down the Delaware and Maurice Rivers. Many of these photographs were used in his watercolors and oils of that period.

In 1898, Anshutz opened the Darby School, a summer school northwest of Philadelphia that emphasized plein air painting. He ran the school with Hugh Breckenridge, a former student who had studied at the Acad�mie Julian around the same time as Anshutz. It was in this setting that Anshutz painted his most abstract work, a series of loosely-rendered and bright oil landscapes that were never exhibited. He continued teaching at the Darby School until 1910.

Despite his openness to experimentation and his accomplishments in genre scenes and landscapes, Anshutz was best-known by his contemporaries for his portraiture. In the late 1890s and 1900s, he exhibited his portraits regularly and won several awards for them, including a silver medal at the 1904 World's Fair, the Gold Medal of Honor at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1909, and a gold medal at the Buenos Aires International Exposition in 1910. Around this time he advanced to head instructor at PAFA, was made a member of the National Academy of Design, and was elected president of the Philadelphia Sketch Club. In the fall of 1911 he was forced by ill health to stop teaching, and he died the following June.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of Thomas Anshutz measure 2.3 linear feet and document his education and career as a painter, photographer, and art instructor. The collection is particularly rich in photographs made between approximately 1880 and 1900, when Anshutz and others at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, under the direction of Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), began using photography as an aid in the study of the figure and as studies for paintings. Also found are correspondence, a notebook with scattered sketches, a handful of clippings regarding Anshutz's career, and scattered notes and printed materials.

Photographs include vintage, original prints that were made during the period when Anshutz worked closely with Thomas Eakins, between 1880 and 1886, consisting of portraits, figure studies both nude and clothed, and class groups both posed and informal. Among the nude photographs are pastoral figure studies with Eakins himself as the model. This collection does not include any of the photographs from Eakins' so-called "Naked Series," although a triptych of three figure studies of Eadweard Muybridge closely resembles photographs from that series. Prints from this period are small in size and are probably original contact prints.

Also found are 49 glass negatives and 3 prints that Thomas Anshutz likely made in the 1890s, mostly of figures and marine subjects, many of which were used in his paintings of that period. Additional unattributed photographs of similar subjects are also found, as well as professional studio portraits of Eakins and others, and a handful of photographs that seem to have been made at a later time and kept by the family, which depict Anshutz, his studio, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and Anshutz's artwork.

Dates and attributions made in this finding aid are taken from scholarly and curatorial publications based on primary sources, including Eakins and the Photograph (1994) by Susan Danly and Cheryl Leibold; Thomas Eakins (2002), catalog to the exhibition Thomas Eakins: American Realist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, especially the chronology by Kathleen Brown; The Photography of Thomas Eakins (1972) by Gordon Hendricks; and Thomas Anshutz: Artist and Teacher (1994) by Randall C. Griffin.

See the series descriptions below for additional information on the attribution and identification of photographs in this collection.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into 5 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms:

  • Eakins, Thomas, 1844-1916
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Philadelphia Sketch Club
  • Art, American--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
  • Glass negatives
  • Painters--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
  • Photographs
  • Photography--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia


A portion of the letters, the glass negatives and photographs were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1971 by Robert and Joy McCarty, occupants of the property formerly owned by the Anshutz family in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. The remaining letters, photographs, and other papers were donated by Elizabeth R. Anshutz, wife of Anshutz's son Edward, in two separate accessions in 1971 and 1972. These gifts were microfilmed on reels 140, 795, 1874, and 1882. Eighteen illustrated letters were also loaned by Mrs. Anshutz to the Archives for microfilming and were later returned. These letters can be viewed on microfilm reel 140.

Separated and Related Materials

Eighteen illustrated letters written by Thomas Anshutz to his wife in 1897 were loaned to the Archives of American Art for microfilming and were then returned to the donor, Elizabeth R. (Mrs. Edward) Anshutz of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These letters can be viewed on microfilm reel 140.

How the Collection was Processed

These papers were initially processed for microfilming upon their accession to the Archives and were microfilmed on reels 140, 795, 1874, and 1882. The collection was re-processed and a finding aid prepared by Megan McShea in 2005 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Project. The current arrangement of the papers does not match the arrangement of the material on microfilm. Glass plate negatives were re-housed in 2015 with a grant provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use of the originals requires an appointment. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Thomas Anshutz papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

The papers of Thomas Pollock Anshutz in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007, and total 870 images.

Loaned materials (18 illustrated letters) microfilmed by the Archives are available on reel 140.

How to Cite this Collection

Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, circa 1870-1911 and 1942
0.2 Linear feet; Box 1

This series includes correspondence with family members, fellow artists, and other personal and professional contacts. Early letters include letters from Anshutz to family while a student at the National Academy in the 1870s, and to his brother from Europe in 1892 and 1893. Letters from Anshutz to his wife, Effie, include many letters from Philadelphia in 1893 and 1894, and from a long river excursion in New Jersey in 1897. Letters from Anshutz to Frank Cresson Schell (1900-1903, 1911 and undated), a former student, discuss his own painting, Schell's artwork and the progress of his students at the Darby School. Correspondence dating from 1905 to 1911 consists of letters from various personal and professional contacts to Anshutz or to his wife. Several letters from clients refer to payments made for portraits. Other significant correspondents include the artists Charles Francis Browne (1908), David Wilson Jordan (1908), Francis Grafly (1910), Edward W. Redfield (1910), Malcolm Stewart (1909-1910), Samuel S. Fleisher (1911), and Daniel Garber (undated).

Three envelopes without letters may have contained illustrated letters, which were loaned to the archives for microfilming but later returned to the donor. A total of eighteen illustrated letters, which are no longer in the collection, can be viewed on microfilm reel 140.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically, with undated letters placed at the end of the group. Dates written on correspondence in pencil were transcribed from envelopes, which were then discarded, by Archives staff upon accession of the collection. Other notations may have also been made at that time.

Box Folder
1 1-19 Correspondence, circa 1870-1911 and 1942
(19 folders)

Series 2: Writings, 1880s, 1893
2 Folders; Box 1

This series contains a notebook kept by Thomas Anshutz during a trip to Europe in 1892-1893. Contents include word games and French language exercises, five pages of sketches, one list of artwork, and a recipe for Spanish White. Also found is a list of contact information on letterhead for the Ladies Decorative Art Club of Philadelphia.

Box Folder
1 20 Travel Notebook, 1893
1 21 Contact List, circa 1880s

Series 3: Financial Records, 1884-1910
1 Folder; Box 1

This series consists of receipts for personal expenses and accounting notes relating to the Darby School, listing total enrollment and tuition for the years 1899-1902.

Box Folder
1 22 Financial Records, 1884-1910

Series 4: Printed Material, 1884-1942 and undated
2 Folders; Box 1

This series consists of clippings and other printed miscellany. Clippings include obituaries for Anshutz and his brother, Edward Anshutz, art reproductions, articles, and announcements relating to Thomas Anshutz's career. Other items include a pass to an 1884 exhibition and Thomas Anshutz's calling card.

Box Folder
1 23 Clippings, 1909-1942, undated
1 24 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1884-1910, undated

Series 5: Photographs, circa 1880-1904, 1936 and undated
2.1 Linear feet; Boxes 1-3, MGP 2

This series contains 198 vintage, original photographic prints and 49 original glass plate negatives, including many photographic studies of human figures, animals, and other scenes; group photographs; and portraits. Vintage prints include albumen, cyanotype, and platinum prints, most of which are mounted on cardboard mounts and appear to be small contact prints. Only three of these prints are from the glass plate negatives in this collection; the remaining 46 glass negatives do not correspond to any of the vintage prints. Positive digital scans have been made directly from the original negatives, which are closed to researchers.

Copy negatives and prints exist for most of the images in this series, including the glass negatives. These copies are filed after originals in a separate folder and have not been digitized.

The Photographs series is arranged into 5 subseries. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers:

5.1: Photographs by Circle of Thomas Anshutz and Thomas Eakins, circa 1880-1886

This group of 66 vintage prints includes photographic figure studies, both clothed and nude, in classroom and outdoor settings; individual portraits; class portraits from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; informal photographs of students in the classroom; staged scenes of groups outdoors; and photographs of works of art. Among those pictured are Thomas Anshutz, Thomas Eakins, Eadweard Muybridge, William H. MacDowell, Susan MacDowell (later Eakins), and J. Laurie Wallace.

The photographs in this series are attributed to the Circle of Anshutz and Eakins from the period when the two worked together at the Pennsylvania Academy and the University of Pennsylvania, between 1880, when Eakins first acquired a camera, and 1886, when Eakins was dismissed from the Academy and presumably ceased contact with Anshutz. Although the prints bear no information regarding who took them or when, many of these photographs are known to have been taken by someone in Eakins' circle because duplicate images or close variants exist in other collections associated with Eakins. The most notable of these collections is the Charles Bregler collection, which consists of papers rescued from Eakins' studio in 1938 by Charles Bregler, friend of Susan MacDowell Eakins, and acquired from Bregler's widow by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1985. Other photographs have been attributed and dated to that period based on their content, such as the portraits of Susan MacDowell, who was a student at the Academy until 1882.

Some of the sessions and excursions represented in this series are well-known in the literature on Eakins, particularly the outdoor nudes and the figure studies of models in classical dress. In some cases, published sources have credited Eakins as the photographer, even of photographs in which he appears. Others have noted that students, assistants, and teacher alike served as both models and photographers. Given this atmosphere of collaboration, and in the absence of any identifying marks, it is nearly impossible to attribute these photographs to a specific photographer. While it is likely that Eakins took some of these photographs, it is equally likely that Anshutz took some as well, especially considering the collection's provenance. Anshutz may also have printed photographs that he did not take and kept the prints among his papers. Students known to have taken photographs at PAFA during this period, who may also have taken photographs in this series, include John Laurie Wallace and Covington Few Seiss. Susan MacDowell was also a photographer at that time and could conceivably have assumed that role in her classes.

The photograph of William H. MacDowell, Eakins' father-in-law, is attributed to Eakins in several published sources, and this attribution is maintained here. A print of Eakins' painting The Gross Clinic may have been made from a negative taken circa 1875-1876, when Eakins is said to have used the photograph to introduce his painting to the public.

Additional photographs taken during this period may also be among the Unattributed Photographs.

Box Folder
1 25-26 William H. MacDowell, circa 1883-1884
(1 vintage print)
(photograph attributed to Thomas Eakins)
1 27-28 Triptych of Eadweard Muybridge, circa 1884
(3 vintage prints mounted together)
1 29-30 Portraits of Susan MacDowell in PAFA Classroom, circa 1882
(2 vintage prints)
(for more images of Susan MacDowell, see Figure Studies in PAFA Classroom)
1 31-32 Bartram's Garden, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, circa 1882
(6 vintage Prints)
(pictured are Anshutz, M. Laurie Wallace, and unidentified painter at easel)
1 Class Groups in PAFA Classroom
1 33-34 Students Working, circa 1882
(3 vintage prints)
(pictured are students dissecting a cadaver in anatomy class, men's modeling class, women painting)
1 35-37 Class Portraits, circa 1882
(6 vintage prints)
1 Figure Studies in Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Classroom
1 38-39 Male Nudes, circa 1882-1883
(1 vintage print)
1 40-42 Men in Classical Costume, circa 1882-1883
(5 vintage prints)
1 43-44 Women in Empire Dress, circa 1882-1883
(5 vintage prints)
1 45-46 Susan MacDowell in Empire Dress, circa 1882-1883
(3 vintage prints)
1 47-48 Susan MacDowell in Group, Empire Dress, circa 1882-1883
(2 vintage prints)
1 49-50 Woman in Kimono, circa 1882-1883
(1 vintage print)
1 51-52 Cow, circa 1882-1883
(1 vintage print)
1 Figure Studies Outdoors, Male Nudes
1 53-54 Unidentified Men, circa 1883
(6 vintage prints)
1 55-56 Two Nude Models with Clothed Man, circa 1883
(2 vintage prints)
(clothed man appears to be Thomas Anshutz)
1 57-59 Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace, circa 1883
(4 vintage prints)
1 60-61 Thomas Eakins, circa 1883
(1 vintage print)
1 62-64 Costumed Groups in Staged Outdoor Scenes, undated
(12 vintage prints)
1 65 Works of Art, undated
(2 vintage prints)
(includes Eakins' Gross Clinic, and unidentified sculpture of Native American subject)

5.2: Photographs by Thomas Anshutz, 1890s

In this series, Anshutz is assumed to be the photographer because he possessed the original negatives, and/or because the images were used as studies for his paintings of the 1890s and 1900s. The series consists of 49 images from glass plate negatives, 3 with vintage albumen prints made from those negatives, and 14 additional prints without negatives, most of which are cyanotype (blue) prints.

Images are grouped by subject matter and setting. Fishing boat scenes, domestic scenes, and beach scenes were probably taken at Holly Beach, NJ, where Anshutz often vacationed with his family. One photograph of a child with Anshutz in the background (filed with Portraits) suggests that others in the family may have been involved in taking these photographs. Images of boys on an industrial riverfront were taken on the Ohio River near Wheeling, then in Virginia, now in West Virginia. Images of Ships and Docks may have been taken during Anshutz's long river excursion down the Delaware and Maurice Rivers in 1897.

The original format of most of these images is the original glass plate negative, either 4x5" or 6 � x 8 �". Vintage contact prints, presumably made by Anshutz, are present for only 3 of these images, all cropped. Digital scans have been made from the original glass negatives, and the negatives themselves are closed to researchers. Copy negatives and copy prints have been created by the Archives for all of the images in this series, and are filed after originals. Copies have not been digitized.

Additional photographs taken by Thomas Anshutz may be filed in Photographs by Circle of Anshutz and Eakins or Unattributed Photographs.

Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.

Box Folder
2 1-2 Boys with Fishing Boat, 1890s
(2 glass plate negatives housed in Box 3)
2 3-4 Figures with Fishing Boat, 1890s
(5 glass plate negatives housed in Box 3; includes 1 vintage print)
2 5 Boys on Industrial Riverfront, 1890s
(5 glass plate negatives housed in Box 3)
2 6 Riverboat Hudson, 1890s
(1 glass plate negative housed in Box 3)
2 7-9 Ships and Docks, 1890s
(7 glass plate negatives housed in Boxes 3 and MGP 2; 12 cyanotypes; 1 albumen print)
2 10-11 Domestic Scenes, 1890s
(10 glass plate negatives housed in Boxes 3 and MGP 2; includes 1 vintage print)
(pictured are women, child, man, dogs, and cats; set by house, in yard)
2 12 Beach and Water Scenes, 1890s
(6 glass plate negatives housed in Boxes 3 and MGP 2)
2 13-14 Cows, undated
(8 glass plate negatives housed in MGP 2; includes 1 vintage print)
2 15 Model in Roman Costume, undated
(1 glass plate negative housed in Box 3)
2 16-17 Portraits, 1890s, undated
(4 glass plate negatives housed in Boxes 3 and MGP 2; 1 cyanotype)
(includes David Wilson Jordan and Anshutz with infant son)
3 Glass Plate Negatives
31 Glass negatives
MGP 2 Glass Plate Negatives
18 Glass negatives

5.3: Unattributed Photographs, 1895, 1897, 1936 and undated

Photographs in this series consist of 92 vintage albumen or cyanotype prints, both mounted and unmounted. Some are similar in subject matter and format to those attributed to the Circle of Anshutz and Eakins, and others bear more similarity to the later photographs made by Anshutz. Despite similarities, however, images in this series have not been directly associated with the photography of Eakins and his circle or with Anshutz as have the photographs above. Due to this ambiguity and lack of identifying information on the photographs themselves, they have not been attributed.

Several unidentified individuals, interior spaces, and furnishings re-appear in portraits and groups, and may depict family and friends of Anshutz. Occasionally multiple prints are mounted on a single backing; in these cases, they have been counted as a single print.

Box Folder
2 18-19 Male Nudes, undated
(2 vintage prints)
2 20-25 Portraits, undated
(33 vintage prints)
2 26-28 Groups, 1897, 1936, undated
(14 vintage prints)
(Anshutz possibly pictured)
2 29-31 Animals, undated
(12 vintage prints)
2 32-34 Landscapes, Exteriors, and Views, 1895, undated
(21 vintage prints)
2 35 Beach and Water Scenes, undated
(4 vintage prints)
2 36 Interiors and Furnishings, undated
(6 vintage prints)

5.4: Professional Studio Portraits, 1904, undated

This series includes 11 photographs taken in professional photographers' studios and mounted on commercially-stamped backing. A few individuals are identified, including one photograph of Thomas Eakins, and another of E.P. Anshutz, Thomas Anshutz's brother.

Box Folder
2 37-38 Thomas Eakins by Geo. and Wm. H. Rau, undated
2 39 E.P. Anshutz by Chandler and Sheetz, undated
2 40 Elizabeth Davis Rogers by Gray, 1904
2 41 Cow from "Studies from Nature" Series by Schreiber, undated
2 42 Unidentified Women by Sarony, undated
2 43 Unidentified Men by Geo. and Wm. H. Rau, undated
2 44 Unidentified Child, undated

5.5: Photographs of Anshutz and Works of Art, undated

This series includes twelve prints that appear to have been made at a later time, including a portrait of Anshutz, Anshutz painting a sitter's portrait, Anshutz's studio, a group photograph of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and six reproductions of drawings of Harper's Ferry by Anshutz. Some of the photographs are annotated by Anshutz's son, Edward Anshutz.

Box Folder
2 45-46 Photographs of Anshutz and His Studio, undated
2 47 Group Photograph, Philadelphia Sketch Club, undated
2 48 Drawings of Harper's Ferry, undated