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Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942

Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942

Anshutz, Thomas Pollock, 1851-1912

Painter, Arts administrator

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

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

Collection Information

Size: 2.3 linear ft.

Summary: The papers document Anshutz's 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.

Various scholars and curators, including staff at the Archives, have attempted to identify and attribute photographs in this collection, most of which bear no identifying marks. Particular attention has been paid to the question of which of the photos may have been taken by Thomas Eakins. Because the information they provided is often inconsistent with published sources, and because no sources were given for information not found elsewhere, these attempts at identification have not been included in this finding aid. Dates and attributions made in this finding aid are taken from scholarly and curatorial publications that have based their information 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.

Biographical/Historical Note

Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851-1912) was a painter, photographer, and art instructor from Philadelphia, Penn.

Provenance

A portion of the letters (reel 140), the glass negatives and photographs were donated to AAA in 1971 by Mr. and Mrs. McCarty, occupants of the property formerly owned by the Anshutz family in Fort Washington, Penn. The remaining letters, photographs and school notebook were donated by Elizabeth R. Anshutz, wife of Anshutz's son Edward, at the same time.

Related Materials

Funding

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

Location of Originals

  • 18 illustrated letters (reel 140): Originals returned to Mrs. Edward Anshutz after microfilming.

A Finding Aid to the Thomas Anshutz Papers,
circa 1870-1942
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.anshthom
Biographical Note
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 Académie Julian and visited museums, galleries, and the Salon des Indépendants. 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 Académie 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.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 5 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers:
Series 1: Correspondence, c. 1870-1911, 1942 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 2: Writings, 1880s, 1893 (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 3: Financial Records, 1884-1910 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1884-1942, undated (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1880-1904, 1936 (Boxes 1-3, MGP 2; 2.1 linear feet)
Provenance
A portion of the letters (reel 140), the glass negatives and photographs were donated to AAA in 1971 by Mr. and Mrs. McCarty, occupants of the property formerly owned by the Anshutz family in Fort Washington, Penn. The remaining letters, photographs and school notebook were donated by Elizabeth R. Anshutz, wife of Anshutz's son Edward, at the same time.
Location of Originals
  • 18 illustrated letters (reel 140): Originals returned to Mrs. Edward Anshutz after microfilming.
Processing Information
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.

Additional Forms Available

This collection was digitized in 2007 and is available on the Archives' website. Loaned materials (18 illustrated letters) microfilmed by the Archives are available on microfilm reel 140 at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

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

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