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Thomas Anshutz papers, circa 1870-1942

More Information

Megan McShea
Scope and Contents
The papers of Thomas Anshutz measure 2.76 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.
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. Eighteen illustrated letters were also loaned by Mrs. Anshutz to the Archives for microfilming (reel 140) and were later returned.
Separated Material
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reel 140) including eighteen illustrated letters written by Thomas Anshutz to his wife in 1897. Loaned materials were returned to the lender, Elizabeth R. Anshutz of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
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.